In a recent article in the New York Times, the work of Jerome Kagan, an influential developmental psychologist now in his 80's is discussed. One of the major contributions that Kagan has made to the understanding of child development is the fact that anxiety as an adult can be somewhat predicted by tempermant as a baby.
Kagan's work includes longitudinal studies (studies over time) that compared the behavior of babies to their behavior as adults. One of the most important findings was that highly reactive babies (those who fussed when exposed to novelty) were more likely to be anxious as adults. The common thread is physiology that causes a person to be highly sensitive.
Does this mean that fretful babies are doomed to become anxiety-filled adults? According to Kagan, although babies who are highly sensitive will be at greater risk as adults, a disorder is not inevitable. The development of an anxiety disorder may be prevented by a protective environment and upbringing. In the end, it is your emotions and behavior that determine whether a disorder develops, and these are at least to some extent, under your control.
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