An ounce of prevention: Evaluation of the fun friends program for kindergarteners in a rural school.


Anxiety disorders are among the most common psychological disorders in childhood with reported rates as high as 41.2% (Cartwright-Hatton, McNicol, & Doubleday, 2006; Cooley, Boyd, & Grados, 2004). A majority of the anxiety intervention programs target children who are 7 years of age and older. Yet, many anxiety disorders develop in the preschool years (APA, 2000). Therefore, it seems desirable to work with young children who display early signs of anxiety to provide them with skills that would protect them from later full-blown psychopathology. Early intervention and prevention programs may be effective ways to modify the developmental trajectory of anxiety disorders. The present research reports findings from an anxiety prevention program for 4-7 year olds. One hundred and ten children from two schools in a rural part of Southwest Virginia participated. Fifty-seven children from one school received a classroom-based prevention program on a weekly basis over 20 weeks. Fifty-three children from a second school served as a control group. The mean age of the sample was 5.11 years. Results suggested that anxiety was positively correlated with emotional symptoms (r = .67, p<.001), peer difficulties (r = .21, p<.05), and total difficulties (r =.29, p<.03) on the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire for all children. Overall, there were significant decreases in anxiety symptoms from pre to follow-up for both groups of children [F (1, 105) = 7.79, p =.006]. Unexpectedly, anxiety symptoms increased from pre to post for children in the intervention school whereas they decreased for children in the control school. Although these findings are reversed of what was expected, these results may have important implications concerning the importance of providing anxiety education and awareness for teachers. Implications of the current findings, limitations of the study, and directions for future research and dissemination are discussed.