Volume 8, Issue 4 (1979)
Children's Fears in the Classroom Setting
Suzanne Bennett Johnson
Fear is a normal, adaptive response. Almost all children experience one or more specific fears over the course of their development (Lapeuse & Monk, 1959); MacFarlane, Allen & Honzik, 1954; Pratt, 1945). However, the content of these fears seems to change as the child grows older. Infants show fear of loud noises, depth and strangers. Two and S-year olds are afraid of animals while 4- and 5-year olds express fears of darkness, nightmares and imaginary creatures (Jersild & Holmes, 1935). By the time the youngster is 10 or 11, fears of physical danger or bodily injury have replaced the fears of “scary creatures” so commonly expressed by the younger child (Bauer, 1976). A factor analytic study by Miller, Barrett, Hampe and Noble (1972b) described three classes or categories of children’s fears: (1) fears of physical injury or personal loss (e.g., being kidnapped, having an operation, divorce of parents, parental death); (2) fears of natural or supernatural dangers (e.g., storms, ghosts, the dark); (3) fears related to “psychic stress” such as taking exams, making mistakes, attending social events, going to a doctor or dentist. This last group of fears seems to be focused on interpersonal relationships. Fears seen in the classroom setting (e.g., school phobia, social withdrawal, test-anxiety) all fall into this category. These fears are the primary focus of this article. (For a more general review of the assessment and treatment of children’s fears, see Johnson and Melamed, 1979.)
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