Separation anxiety in both children and adults


It is very normal for a child or an adult to experience separation anxiety. Separation anxiety has symptoms which define if it is health separation anxiety or a separation anxiety disorder. If one just feels withdrawn and may be cries, it is healthy when one departs but, when a child experiences nightmares, become insomniac, becomes truant, care should be taken so that it does not affect his or her independence and socialization ability after erosion of self esteem. The parents should be cautious not be affected by separation anxiety because, at times, it is interchanged between the parent and child. By being overprotective leads to separation anxiety, which needs some, easing process to develop someone into a self reliant person.

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Table of Contents

  1. Abstract 2
  2. Introduction                                                                                        4
  3. Statement of the Problem 5
  4. Review of Literature 5
  5. Introduction                                                                                   5
  6. Research Statistics 6
  7. Symptoms 7
  8. Factors/ Causes 9
  9. Effects on Parents                                     10
  10. Types of separation anxieties 11
  11. Easing the separation anxiety 12
  12. Conclusion 13
  13. Statement of the Hypothesis                                                                    13
  14. References  14









Separation Anxiety


Anxiety disorder is whereby individuals experience anxiety because of a separation likely to happen after being close to people we acre about in life. It is a psychological condition where people experience a lot of anxiety in the process of separating with loved ones such as parents, children, grand parents, classmates, brothers, sisters among others in life. It is a condition characterized by a lot of anticipation and ends up in limiting ones ability to succeed in an activity they are involved in the course of life. For instance students find it to drop the feelings and this limit their achievements in life. Apart from the departure from a physical location separation, there are other separations, which are brought, by things such as death, divorce, kidnapping among others. This is where the distinction between separation anxiety in children and adults comes in because their reactions differ with the separation they experience (Eisen et al., 2007).

Adults who get divorces many be unable to cope with their current responsibilities for instance their careers because of the gap created by the resulting separation. The psychological effect in the divorce preparation may make someone call off the whole process because of the anxiety. Children, on the other hand, may not cope in school or may become truant and fail to attend their assignments because of the fear of leaving home and find the people they love have gone. Parents may struggle with the acceptance that their son or daughter is socialized enough not to require their attention. This results to displaying of some symptoms which people confuse with stress. It is imperative to take such people to counselors who offer them pieces of advice concerning the matter at hand (AllAboutLifeChallenges, 2002).

Statement of the problem

This work intends to study different levels in which separation anxiety takes place in people lives and how it can be corrected.  Many people do not realize the problem with their relatives or their colleagues and end up blaming them for lack of stability to deal with petty issues in their lives.

Review of the Literature

In the process of separation, fear engulfs both the adults as well as the children in most cases when the process of separation is expected. This is a normal reaction in human beings because of the attachment they value very much in their lives. Drop out rates are associated to conditions such as separation anxiety because if the condition is not treated in the initial stages, it becomes disastrous in the development of children. In the formative stages of the young people, the funny experiences of the separation with key people life lead to development of low self esteem. Children must be well responded to because the case of separation continues to manifest in their lives, they become mistrusting (Bartle-Haringet al., 2002).

Some parents are fond of cheating their children when they are leaving for work. Mothers in most cases pretend to be going to the wash rooms and, the children wait. The mother exists through the other door or the garage and leaves the child with the house help. When the child realizes this she or he may cry. What ever the mother or the father may tell them in the future they may not trust them which is the basis of a negative trait in the development of the young one. Truancy finds its basis in the courses of separation anxiety. Separating the child from the primary caregiver in a negative approach may be detrimental in the growth of the child. It is better to condition the mind of the child that their parents leave but get back home. This raises their expectations rather than cheating them that you are still around only for them to discover that you are not around (Pantley, 2011).

From an optimistic perspective, separation anxiety helped our ancestors to stick to the environment they grew up and trust the neighboring communities. To test the independence of the child at around two years of age, one needs to show the child that you usually leaves the house but gets back at some time of the day. This develops a feeling of independence and end the feeling of prolonged infancy where children still feel that they belong to their parents. This enhances socialization basics to be developed by the children because they learn to trust other people apart from their parents. It also helps children to feel safe in their home environment as well as trust that the parents will get back home after work (Robinson et al., 2012).

In case of medical procedures, it is imperative to be around the child because the fact that you are around helps him or her to have reduced feeling of pain and stress. Anxiety deteriorates the painful experience hence the lack of quick recovery, which is imperative, in a child’s life (Eisen et al., 2007).

Research and Statistics

In the recent waves of terrorism attacks and revolutions, it makes life uncertain because dangers are not warning or predictable.  Many of the parents suffer a lot from separation anxiety mostly when their children leave for school. When parents harbor such thoughts, they find it hard to concentrate in their places of work. This is because their lives are full of anxieties which are contributed by premonitions of their children being kidnapped, involved in accidents or dying in terrorism attacks (Bartle-Haringet al., 2002).  Children, on the other hand, worry about their separation with patents that drive long distances to work.  They are fearful that bad things many happen to them. Even if there are other fears about performance at school, social relations and health matters, about 41% of the children fears are filled by separation anxiety (Kins et al., 2011).

Safety and injury of the other parties they are worries about consist of about 56% of their worries.  Sleeping alone is also a cause of worry in children which constitutes to 51% because of they believe that they need a companion in their bed or bedrooms because of undefined fears or stereotypes they were introduced to their render ages. Watching of scary t6elevation causes fears about being home alone because they believe that the parties in the television are meant to harm them. Many children may dream of bad things happening in their lives or their parents, which may cause insomnia in their nights because they internalize the problems instead of speaking their minds to the concerned parties such as parents, guardians or teachers. Children suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), experiences fears such as sleeping alone or being left alone in lonely areas than other children with various disorders (Eisen et al., 2007).

In reaction to the factors that lead to the children being left alone the children tend to cry, temper tantrums, pleading, screaming. This happens when the children are dropped in a friend’s house, left alone at hone, sleep alone, and refuse to attend school. The oppositional behaviors lead to the children being cumbersome to deal with because they do not develop self reliance and these results to prolonged infancy (Eisen et al., 2007). Parental accommodations are the best to counter the separation anxiety. Separation anxiety disorder ranges from 3 to 13% in children while it is 1.8 to 2.4 % in adolescents. Sad is not only prevalent in children but affects individuals in their lifespan because every day has its fear that needs to be conquered. In children and adolescent’s clinic, separation anxiety disorder is as high as up to 47% (Eisen et al., 2007).


It is an obvious reaction for children to cry when they are separated from their caregivers. Children are afraid of unfamiliar places and people. There are common symptoms associated with separation anxiety disorder according to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). Children experience worries and fears in different instances. The kids feel constant fear and worry when it comes to separation, for instance, they feel that something disastrous will happen to their relatives or loved ones. They believe that something harmful may affect their loved ones if the child is not with the people she or he loves. The children may feel that the apparent or other people will become sick or get hurt. Children are worried that something may cause permanent separation between then children and parents. They fear about being kidnapped or getting lost. Nightmares about separation fill the children’s lives, which make them, have scary dreams about the fears that nag them during the day (Pantley, 2011).

When a child has separation anxiety, he or she displays some behaviors such as refusals and sicknesses. They practice truancy whereby they refuse to go to school in the fear that they will find their loved ones have gone. This creates a tension between parents and other people involved in the child growth. Children feign even disease to let them stay at home and avoid school or social gatherings. Reluctance to go to sleep, results in insomniac children. This also leads to micro sleep sand sleep debts during the day. Children fear to go to sleep because of the nightmares that they have at night concerning premonitions concerning their loved ones. Complains about physical sicknesses such as stomachache and headache are caused by feeling that they will be left alone after separation. They feign sickness so that they are told to remain behind with their parents (Pantley, 2011).

Most of the children cling to their caregivers because they fear living on their own. They follow their parents in the house to ensure they are not out of sight. This makes the children to lack independency for, they are fond of seeing their parents in their company. If these symptoms are not attended, the child grows with them as traits which result to nuisance behaviors in their youths because they become irresponsible in future. If the children are allowed to set their minds that their parents leave and come back in the hose, they respond positively to life rather then the overprotected children.


Children result to separation anxiety disorders because they fear about what will happen to their parents. Change of the environment is a factor that leads to separation anxiety because they are not acclimatized to the new surrounding they are exposed to by their parents (Eisen and Engler, 2006). They may be taken to new schools and, they meet a new friend who behaves differently from their previous school. This causes separation anxiety because they feel lost. Stress is also a cause of separation anxiety. Stress scan be experienced after switching of schools whereby the children lack proper orientation programs to make them comfortable in the new environments (Bartle-Haringet al., 2002). Loss of loved ones causes separation anxiety whereby it can be a person or a pet. The fact that there is a gap created after a loss, people failed to accept the crude bereavement and surround themselves with constant worry. Overprotective parents are also a factor in causing anxiety in children. Parents also suffer from anxiety when the children are gone because they feel that they need to be under their care and no one else. The parent is perturbed when not next to their children.

Parents, on the other hand, suffer separation disorder if they are overprotective. The fact that when children grow up they leave the “paradise of home” to venture in other area unknown to the parents, the parents feel separation anxiety, which they fail, to understand. This is because the children have been able to socialize elsewhere and form new friends hence do not need the parental care which they did awhile ago. Divorces, death, promotions among others instill fear to the left people because they feel that they will not be able to cope like they used to in the past (Burke et al., 2009).

Effects on the Parents

To enhance the effects on the parents were based on empirical information there was a study conducted on adults who ranged between 21 to 26 years. This was because most of the parents suffer the effects of the separation anxiety. Parents do not accept that they are being left by their children who venture in other field of life. The study consisted of two activities whereby the undergraduates contacted two families each (Kins et al., 2011). The first family consisted of the family with an emerging adult of between twenty one and twenty three years. The other one was a family with emerging adults of between twenty four and twenty six years. The emerging adults had to be from different genders. Out of all the families reached, only five percent that refused to be contacted (AllAboutLifeChallenges, 2002).

Most of the parents had difficulties to release their children to be on their own. Only forty three percent lived with their parents while the rest lived independently most of the times. According to the research, parents exhibited high levels of separation anxiety because they did not accept that their children can depart their homes. Separation-individuation is the result of the adults trying to live on their own without the concern of the parents. Although some of the parents were relieved after their children left, they still harbored some feelings of separation which raised anxiety but, they suppressed them. It is imperative to help your children to be independent because they live a positive life without the feeling of the needs for the parent’s comfort (Pubmed Health, 2010).

Parents still retain the different title they gave to things at home when their children lived there for instance the bedrooms still remained under the titles of constituent former holders. This was an indication that the parents were in denial for, they believed that their children will come back to the main room (Kins et al., 2011). Parents need to be cautious on little children because if they do not take caution, they will live in perpetual fears of releasing their children to other people. The parents should try to leave their children with the hose help and believe that they will be taken care of just as they do to them. Constant worries about how the house help will treat your child only limit an individual in the mission she has set to achieve (Eisen and Engler, 2006).  This is because people, who do not spend their day with their children, leave them under the care of other people and they learn to trust them. It is imperative to be concerned not to become overprotective for this is a cause of separation anxiety disorder for, children and adolescent (Bartle-Haringet al., 2002).  If, in your family tree, there existed cases of separation anxiety, the future generation from that lineage also suffer the same consequences. Parents, who feel anxiety about their separation with their children, tend to show them a lot of protection (Kins et al., 2011). This overprotection results to separation anxiety in the child if one leaves him or her. If the child goes to a boarding school, he finds it difficult to cope.

Types of separation anxieties


In this case, the child fears being left alone and sustains the fear of getting sick. The child should be left in the company of someone so as to take care of the child when the sickness occurs.


The child fears that, at night, there are intruders in his or her bed. The child should be given company or sleep with someone. This is to be alert incase the signs manifest themselves on the child.

Misfortune teller

The child has fear of being abandoned for he or, she sustains the fear of getting sick. Someone should be near the child for preventing the serious illness from attacking the child.


The child fears being left alone. She or he has constant worry of the parental whereabouts. Someone should be notified on the parental whereabouts until she or he attains an age of independency (Eisen and Engler, 2006).

Easing the separation anxiety

The practice of easing separation anxiety should be done on the basis of enhancing discipline in the child and the parent. Leave the child with the house help or caregiver for short periods and short distances so that one acclimatizes to the situation of being without the child (Robinson et al., 2012). After feeding the bay, one should try separation so that one gets used to such times for a better coexistence. Every parent should develop a goodbye ritual such as wave or a kiss to show the child that one is almost leaving so as to prepare the child psychologically (Eisen et al., 2007). It is imperative to have a constant house help to minimize introduction to various strangers. It is important to leave without fanfare whereby one just leaves and assures the child that you will be back. Scaring television scenes should be minimized because they frighten the child and look for attention from the caregiver hence the separation anxiety. Persistence in the easing program should be held paramount so that one resists the feeling of being overprotective (Pubmed Health, 2010).


Separation anxiety occurs into forms which are the healthy separation anxiety which every child should exhibit in life. If the exhibition of separation anxiety exceeds to temperaments, crying, nightmares, truancy and other negative impacts, it becomes a separation anxiety disorder.  It should be eased out before it becomes detrimental in a person’s life. One needs to take the child or the adult to the counselor for cognitive therapy. Red flags for anxiety in separation disorder should be treated with caution because if treated negatively they evoke negative feelings in the child’s lifespan mistrust. If they are positively approached the anxieties transform to strengths such as socialization ability and self reliance (Fritscher, 2011).


Statement of the Hypothesis

            In reference to the review of the literature separation anxiety for most children and parents is a normal process. When there is excessive separation anxiety, there can be long lasting effects which may be crossed over to the next generation. Identifying and evaluating how to ease the effects of separation anxiety creates a healthy development for both the parent and the child (Kins et al., 2011).












Reference List

AllAboutLifeChallenges. (2002). Adult Separation Anxiety. Retrieved on 2nd March, 2012 from

Bartle-Haring, S., Brucker, P. and Hock, E. (2002). Adulthood the Impact of Parental

Separation Anxiety on Identity Development in Late Adolescence and Early. Journal of Adolescent Research. Vol. 17 No. 5, Pp. 439-450

Burke, S., McIntosh, J. and Gridley, H. (2009). Parenting after Separation. Retrieved on 2nd

February, 2012 from

Eisen, A. and Engler, L. (2006). Helping your child overcome separation anxiety or school

refusal: a step-by-step guide for parents. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.

Eisen, A., Schaefer, C. and Barlow, D. (2007). Separation Anxiety in Children and Adolescents:

An Individualized Approach to Assessment and Treatment. New York: Guilford Press.

Fritscher, L. (2011). Separation Anxiety: What’s Normal and What’s Not? Retrieved on 2nd

March, 2012 from

Kins, E., Soenens, B. and Beyers, W. (2011). ‘‘Why do they have to grow up so fast?’’ Parental

Separation Anxiety and Emerging Adults’ Pathology of Separation-Individuation. Journal of Clinical Psychology, Vol. 67(7), Pp. 1–18

Pantley, E. (2011). The No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution: Gentle Ways to Make Good-Bye

Easy from Six Months to Six Years. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional.

Pubmed Health. (2010). Separation Anxiety. Retrieved on 2nd March, 2012 from

Robinson, L., Segal, J. and Smith, M. (2012). Separation Anxiety in Children: Easing Separation

Disorder. Retrieved on 2nd March, 2012 from


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