Despite substantial recent advancements in psychiatric genetic research, progress in identifying the genetic basis of anxiety disorders has been limited. We review the candidate gene and genome-wide literatures in anxiety, which have made limited progress to date. We discuss several reasons for this hindered progress, including small samples sizes, heterogeneity, complicated comorbidity profiles, and blurred lines between normative and pathological anxiety. To address many of these challenges, we suggest a developmental, multivariate framework that can inform and enhance anxiety phenotypes for genetic research. We review the psychiatric and genetic epidemiological evidence that supports such a framework, including the early onset and chronic course of anxiety disorders, shared genetic risk factors among disorders both within and across time, and developmentally dynamic genetic influences. We propose three strategies for developmentally sensitive phenotyping: examination of early temperamental risk factors, use of latent factors to model underlying anxiety liability, and use of developmental trajectories as phenotypes. Expanding the range of phenotypic approaches will be important for advancing studies of the genetic architecture of anxiety disorders.