The world of social anxiety affects 15 million Americans in any given year. Tracy Morris has developed a study that aims to identify styles of parent-child interaction that might be associated with social anxiety, generalized anxiety, and depression. The associate professor in the WVU Eberly College of Art and Sciences has received $146,000 for two years from the National Institutes of Health to conduct experiments.

Her study,”Family Interactions and Social Anxiety in Children,”will explore if parent-child interactions have any influence on whether a child develops anxious tendencies and/or depression. She will gather 96 children, ages 9-12, with their families, to serve as subjects for the investigation. They will participate in a diagnostic interview, a series of laboratory tasks, and complete a series of questionnaires.

Anxiety is characterized by excessive worrying about various events and issues in the past, present, and future. Typically, the children express concern about

past conversations or actions, school, health, participation and success in sports or academics, and world events.

These children frequently experience problems in social relationships because they find it difficult to control the amount of time that they worry, and this worrying interferes in their daily life, Morris explains. Aside from withdrawn social activity, they experience irritability, muscle tension, sleep disturbance, fatigue, restlessness, and difficulty in concentrating.

By discovering the source of this anxiety, Morris hopes to develop a systematic way in which parents can interact with their children in a way that makes the child as functional as possible so the child can experience a normal life.

Morris received her B.S. and M.S. from the Pittsburg State University in Kansas and her doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Mississippi in 1992. She joined WVU in 1993 as an assistant professor and was promoted to associate professor in 1999.

Her research focuses on developmental psychopathology, with an interest in social anxiety disorder. She concentrates primarily on the influence of parent-child interaction and peer relations on the development of anxiety and depression. She teaches courses in psychopathology and personality, and she is involved in mental health consultation with area elementary and middle schools.