THURSDAY, Oct. 13 (HealthDay News) -- The symptoms aren't often alarming: headache, stomachache, fatigue. But they tend to come on weekdays, specifically when your child should be heading off to school.
Psychologists call it school avoidance, and it can take different forms in many age groups.
Exact numbers are hard to come by, but school avoidance "remains a serious problem," said Alan Hilfer, director of psychology at Maimonides Medical Center in New York City. "We are more attuned to this and more aware of factors possibly affecting school attendance."
School professionals are also able to offer more support nowadays, he said.
Frequently, kids who avoid school are reacting to pressure, either real or perceived.
"There's tremendous pressure . . . in academics, appearance, activities," said Mark Goldstein, a child clinical psychologist in Chicago. "A lot of times kids are just overwhelmed . . . And if a child has a proclivity towards anxiety, especially a genetic predisposition, there's a greater likelihood of anxiety being precipitated."
The full range of school avoidance is a continuum, said Goldstein.
At one end is the younger child experiencing painful yet predictable separation anxiety when going to school for the first time.
At the other extreme, said Goldstein, "There's actually social phobia, which is a much more severe disorder, with some kids refusing to go to school."
And everything in between, "from a child being bullied or picked on in school, [or] kids having anxiety about a particular event in school, such as having to dress for P.E.," said Goldstein. "Sometimes it's as simple as not being prepared for a test or quiz and they consciously or unconsciously suddenly don't want to go to school."
Several studies have detected a rise in school avoidance during middle-school and junior-high years, according to the Am
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