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The relationship between poor reading and anxiety in children

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posted on 2022-11-03, 01:16 authored by Alana Rochelle Jones

Reading difficulties and anxiety are two leading concerns in childhood. Approximately 16% of children read below the average range for their age or school grade (Shaywitz et al., 1992), and an estimated 6.9% of young people meet diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder (Lawrence et al., 2016). Until recently, reading and anxiety have been investigated separately. However, parents, educators, clinicians, and researchers are increasingly aware that problems with reading and emotional health co-occur. This thesis reviews and extends the current literature on the relationship between poor reading and anxiety in children. An empirical investigation with 47 poor readers aged 7-12 years was conducted to clarify the types of anxiety (e.g., social, generalised, separation, and reading anxiety) experienced by those with reading difficulties. We also investigated whether these anxieties were related to specific types of reading problems (e.g., nonword and irregular word reading accuracy, text reading fluency, and reading comprehension). Children completed a series of reading measures and parents completed a questionnaire on their child’s anxiety and inattention symptoms. A series of one-sample t-tests against normative data indicated that our sample of poor readers experienced above-average levels of social, generalised, separation, and reading anxiety. These results were statistically significant, and effect sizes were moderate to large. Partial correlations that controlled for inattention assessed the associations between types of anxiety and types of reading. Reading fluency was statistically significantly, moderately, and negatively associated with social anxiety and reading anxiety. Small-to-moderate negative partial correlations between irregular word reading accuracy and reading anxiety, and reading comprehension and reading anxiety were found, however, these were not statistically significant. These findings demonstrate the importance of screening poor readers for anxiety and suggest that certain anxiety symptoms may be more closely associated with specific reading problems than others. Knowledge of the anxiety symptoms that poor readers may experience and their relationships with different reading difficulties may facilitate assessment and treatment. 


Table of Contents

The relationship between poor reading and anxiety in children -- Method -- Results -- Discussion -- References -- Appendix A -- Appendix B -- Appendix C -- Appendix D -- Appendix E -- Appendix F


This dissertation is presented for the degree of Master of Research Macquarie University Centre for Reading

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


Thesis (MRes), Macquarie University, Faculty of Medicine, Health and Human Sciences, School of Psychological Sciences, 2022

Department, Centre or School

School of Psychological Sciences

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Genevieve McArthur

Additional Supervisor 1

Deanna Francis


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