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Young people are actively worrying about political issues, experts find

Researchers say many children and teens have anxiety over how these issues affect them

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Photo (c) bizoo_n - Getty Images
While it’s not uncommon for consumers to be stressed when it comes to political concerns, a new study found that adults aren’t the only ones expressing worry about the state of our country. 

According to researchers from American University, kids and teens are just as likely as adults to express concern over political issues -- particularly those that can affect their age group. 

“I was interested in finding out if worry about political issues extends to kids beyond those with anxiety disorders,” said clinical psychologist Nicole Caporino. “It turns out that it does. In our study, it was common for caregivers to report that their children have worried about political issues.” 

Are kids too worried?

To better understand kids’ attitudes about politics, the researchers had nearly 400 caregivers of children between the ages of six and 17 participate in the study. 

The participants went through a questionnaire that detailed 15 different voting measures and indicated if their child had expressed worry about the issue in the past. Participants were also required to indicate their political leanings. 

The researchers learned that worry related to political issues was common among young people, regardless of their mental health struggles or their caregivers’ political affiliation. However, most of the caregivers reported that their children expressed worry to some degree, political worry was heightened for those children who were already struggling with an anxiety disorder. 

Caporino says that some level of worry is expected and can actually be beneficial, but caregivers should be mindful of how concerned their children are on a regular basis. 

“...it’s not clear from these data that the worry experienced by the average kid is harmful,” Caporino said. “It may not be a problem that kids are worrying. We know that anxiety and worry, to a certain degree, are helpful because they motivate us to take action to improve what is troubling us.” 

Create a political dialogue

Moving forward, Caporino encourages parents to keep the political dialogue open with their children, as that is the best way to keep them informed and monitor their anxiety levels. 

“Youth are worrying about a wide range of issues, and especially those that disproportionately affect their generation,” said Caporino. “Talk to your kids to make sure that the information they’re getting is accurate, and that they’re not worrying unnecessarily because they’re making assumptions about political issues they don’t understand very well due to their development level.” 

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