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Psychiatric characteristics of children with selective mutism: a pilot study.

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  • 1New England Medical Center, Boston, MA 02111, USA.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To ascertain characteristics of children with selective mutism.

METHOD:

Subjects with selective mutism were evaluated by means of parent and teacher rating scales and structured diagnostic interviews.

RESULTS:

Thirty children were evaluated. Mutism severity varied markedly in different environmental settings. Ninety-seven percent of the subjects were diagnosed with social phobia or avoidant disorder of childhood or adolescence or both and 30% with simple phobia. No other psychiatric disorders were common. Parent and teacher rating scales showed high levels of anxiety symptoms, especially social anxiety, and low levels of all other psychiatric symptoms. Anxiety and social anxiety severity correlated with mutism severity. First-degree family history of social phobia and of selective mutism, obtained by family history method, was present in 70% and 37% of families, respectively. There was no evidence of a causal relationship between psychologically or physically traumatic experiences and development of selective mutism.

CONCLUSIONS:

Selective mutism may be a symptom of social anxiety, rather than a distinct diagnostic syndrome. Further study of the characteristics of children with selective mutism and their families is warranted.

Comment in

PMID:
7649954
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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