Intervention Research

Prof. Dr. Silvia Schneider

Differential Impact of Parental Participation on Intensified Exposure Based Psychological Interventions in Anxiety Disorders in Children

Principal Investigator and Team:

Prof. Dr. Silvia Schneider
Dr. Verena Pflug
Michael Lippert, M.Sc.
Study participation

Principal Investigator and Team

Prof. Dr. Silvia Schneider
Prof. Dr. Jürgen Margraf
Dr. Dirk Adolph
Michael Lippert, M.Sc.
Dr. Verena Pflug
Dipl. Stat. Xiao Chi Zhang


Technische Universität Dresden, Prof. Hans-Ulrich Wittchen
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Prof. Brunna Tuschen-Caffier
Universität Koblenz-Landau, Prof. Tina In-Albon
Philipps-Universität Marburg, Prof. Hanna Christiansen
Universitätsklinikum Würzburg, Prof. Marcel Romanos


Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (Förderkennzeichen 01EE14202C)


Since April 2015


The goal of the present trial is to improve our understanding of a disorder-specific use of parental participation in psychological treatment of childhood anxiety disorders. In sharp contrast to adult anxiety disorders, childhood anxiety disorders are under-researched in spite of their high prevalence, strong continuity into adulthood and powerful prediction of adult disorders. However, effective treatments share exposure interventions and thus extinction learning as a core ingredient. Basic research indicates that suboptimal conditions for extinction learning and context conditioning with the parents as powerful context variable could explain poorer extinction learning and higher return of fear in children. Thus, we will administer high doses of extinction trials with vs. without parental participation to examine the disorder-specific efficacy of parental participation. We expect that for separation anxiety disorder, but not for specific phobia and social anxiety disorder, parent inclusion decreases return of fear and yields more lasting treatment effects via optimizing extinction learning. To test the hypothesis, we conduct a multicenter randomized clinical trial with 400 children aged 8 to 16 years with a primary diagnosis of separation anxiety, specific phobia or generalized anxiety disorder. The treatment consists of 16 sessions á 60 min. (5 sessions over 4 weeks for psychoeducation + rationale, 5 double sessions of IPI over 3 weeks, 1 session for relapse prevention). While half of the children will attend treatment with their parents the other half will attend without parents, but will receive the same treatment ingredients. Before and after treatment children will be studied in the psychophysiological lab to investigate extinction learning, contextual fear and extinction deficits. Blood samples will be collected to study DNA methylation in the pathogenesis, as predictors of therapy response and as potential correlates of extinction elements in psychotherapy of anxiety disorders.
The present study has the goal to generate evidence-based recommendations for clinical guidelines. The proposed study will disseminate effective treatments and build new centers for the treatment of childhood anxiety disorders and thus improve psychotherapy services in Germany for the most common mental disorders in childhood. It is expected that early successful treatment