Using Symptom and Interference Questionnaires to Identify Recovery Among Children With Anxiety Disorders

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Questionnaires are widely used in routine clinical practice to assess treatment outcomes for children with anxiety disorders. This study was conducted to determine whether 2 widely used child and parent report questionnaires of child anxiety symptoms and interference (Spence Child Anxiety Scale [SCAS-C/P] and Child Anxiety Impact Scale [CAIS-C/P]) accurately identify recovery from common child anxiety disorder diagnoses as measured by a ‘gold-standard’ diagnostic interview. Three hundred thirty-seven children (7–12 years, 51% female) and their parents completed the ADIS-IV-C/P diagnostic interview and questionnaire measures (SCAS-C/P and CAIS-C/P) before (Time 1) and after (Time 2) treatment or wait-list. Time 2 parent reported interference (CAIS-P) was found to be a good predictor of absence of any diagnoses (area under the curve [AUC] = .81). In terms of specific diagnoses, Time 2 SCAS-C/P separation anxiety subscale (SCAS-C/P-SA) identified recovery from separation anxiety disorder well (SCAS-C-SA, AUC = .80; SCAS-P-SA, AUC = .82) as did the CAIS-P (AUC = .79). The CAIS-P also successfully identified recovery from social phobia (AUC = .78) and generalized anxiety disorder (AUC = .76). These AUC values were supported by moderate to good sensitivity (.70–.78) and specificity (.70–.73) at the best identified cut-off scores. None of the measures successfully identified recovery from specific phobia. The results suggest that questionnaire measures, particularly the CAIS-P, can be used to identify whether children have recovered from common anxiety disorders, with the exception of specific phobias. Cut-off scores have been identified that can guide the use of routine outcome measures in clinical practice.

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