Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The role of anxiety symptoms in school performance in a community sample of children and adolescents

Luigi Mazzone1*, Francesca Ducci2, Maria Cristina Scoto1, Eleonora Passaniti1, Valentina Genitori D'Arrigo1 and Benedetto Vitiello3

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Child Neurology and Psychiatry- Department of Paediatrics, University of Catania, Catania, Italy

2 Department of Psychiatry, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy

3 Division of Services and Intervention Research, NIMH, Bethesda, MD, USA

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BMC Public Health 2007, 7:347  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-347

Published: 5 December 2007



Anxiety symptoms are relatively common among children and adolescents and can interfere with functioning. The prevalence of anxiety and the relationship between anxiety and school performance were examined among elementary, middle, and high school students.


Samples of elementary (N = 131, age 8–10 years), middle (N = 267, age 11–13 years), and high school (N = 80, age 14–16 years) children were recruited from four public schools in a predominantly middle-class community in Catania, Italy. Children completed the Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children (MASC). T-scores were computed for the MASC total scores, and considered to be in the anxious range if 65 or above. Current academic grades were obtained from school records.


Of the 478 children, 35 (7.3%) had a MASC T-score in the anxious range. The rate of children in the anxious range was 2.3% in elementary, 7.9% in middle, and 15.9% in high school (χ2 = 7.8, df = 2, p < 0.05), and was 14.1% among students with insufficient grades, 9.4% among those with sufficient grades, and 3.9% among those with good or very good grades (χ2 = 11.68, df = 2, p < 0.01).


In this community sample of children and adolescents attending elementary through high school, the prevalence of abnormally high self-reported levels of anxiety increased in frequency with age and was negatively associated with school performance.