Separation Anxiety Disorder



Separation anxiety disorder (SAD) is defined as developmentally inappropriate fear and anxiety about being away from home and/or apart from the individuals to whom a child is most attached.

  • This diagnosis should be distinguished from developmentally appropriate worries, fears, and responses to stressors.


  • Prevalence estimates range from 4% in children aged 7 to 9 years to 1.6% in adolescents.
  • Prevalence is slightly higher in females than males.
  • Symptoms tend to peak between 7 and 9 years of age, but the disorder can present at any age.


Studies show that there are genetic and environmental precursors to the development of SAD:

  • A temperament of behavioral inhibition in which a child tends to approach unfamiliar situations with distress, restraint, and avoidance has been shown to be associated with development of anxiety disorders.
  • Low experience of control over the environment
  • Early development of stranger anxiety
  • Insecure attachment between parent and child
  • Increased parental anxiety
  • Parenting style of being excessively controlling and overprotective
  • Exposure to negative life events or stressors
  • Genetic predisposition with family history of anxiety or depression

Commonly Associated Conditions

Comorbid conditions are present in up to 80% of children with SAD, most commonly including the following:

  • School refusal
  • Depression
  • Simple phobia
  • Social phobia
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Agoraphobia

There's more to see -- the rest of this topic is available only to subscribers.