Social perspectives on GAD
Generalized anxiety disorder
GAD and depression may appear virtually identical in terms of genetic influence, but if we look at the long-term risk factors for each disorder, greater differences emerge.
Researchers who followed 1,000 New Zealanders from infancy to age 32 discovered that, although clinical depression and GAD share some risk factors, the differences are much more significant. Depression is linked to a family history of the illness and to problems in adolescence. GAD, on the other hand, is strongly associated with childhood experience, specifically a low socioeconomic background; anxious, hostile, or abusive parenting; inhibited temperament; a tendency to worry, or to be unhappy or fearful; and behavioural problems such as bullying, fighting, stealing, tantrums, and lying.
Similarly, when psychologists interviewed a group of Dutch primary school children they found that the children who regarded their parents as anxious or rejecting reported higher levels of worry. So too did those who saw themselves as ’insecurely attached’ — indicating a fundamental problem in their relationship with their parents (for more on attachment styles, see p. 41). Clearly, the researchers were relying on the children’s own accounts. And it’s not impossible that the children who reported difficulties in their parenting did so because they were prone to worry. Nevertheless, the research reinforces the link between worry and childhood experience suggested by the New Zealand study.