children vs Phobias

The majority of people have a phobia, but alot of these phobias have developed in adult life.  for example I am petrified of snakes, as a child i wasn’t to bothered about them. As an adult i cant even pick up a toy one. So where do phobias come from.

It is suggested that if you have a phobia as a  young child then you will develop to a  normal adult without a phobia. suggesting that phobias as a child are not carried through to adulthood  As adults we have very specific phobias and they can last for many years and can turn into very emotional and traumatic events of faced with the phobia.  However children can go through phases where such fears and phobias start and stop for no reason.  For example a child could be afraid of the dentist, a few days pass and they forget about the dentist and they forget about the phobia.

However some children really do develop more serious phobias.  Children cannot isolate their phobia in their emotions so therefore there phobia can become bigger that the real thing they are scared of.  For example a child refuses to go to school, they have a real fear and develop a phobia of school, everything about it is scary.  When the phobia is looked into and broken down it turns out that it is one bully in school that they are scared of not the whole thing.   Children’s phobia if treated right can be quickly turned around and disappear.

So how much of children phobias are passed on from their parents?

I is suggested that some phobias are passed on to children spiders and snakes but if the child has seen people they trust reacting nicely to spiders and snakes then they are more likely to get over their fear and not follow their parents phobias.  where as if they are seeing just their parents over reacting to spiders or snakes then they are going to think that is normal behavior when faced with the same situation.  So can we class these as phobias or normal behavior to reactions?

Here is a video pf Mr Bean with his phobia  🙂



Anon (2012) Anxietycare. Children’s fear and phobias. Retrived from (February 2012)

Anon (Novemeber 2008) Parenting and child health. Fears and phobias – older children and teenagers. Retrieved from (February 2012)

Anon (February 2008) ABCnews. Extreme Child Phobias: More Than Fear, Sometimes Dangerous, Even Deadly. Retrived from (February 2012)







7 thoughts on “children vs Phobias

  1. bpmjb says:

    Lichtenstein and Anna’s (2000) investigated the relative environmental and genetic influence on specific fears and phobias in young children. They investigated 1106 pairs of 8-9 year old Swedish twins and found that the prevalence for specific phobias and fears was 7.3% for boys and 10 % for girls. Furthermore the researchers confirmed that both genetic factors and environmental factors, including trauma, prompting the particular development of a fear or phobia are important for differences in phobias and specific fears in children. Again however a common difficulty is presented, whereby disentangling the effects of the environment from the effects of genes and henceforth determining the etiology of the phobia and fear is very difficult. Nonetheless the research does support the idea that a phobia or specific fear can manifest at quite a young age in young children. In addition Evans, Canavera, Kleinpeter, Maccubbin and Taga (2005) presented evidence to suggest that children with an autism spectrum disorder exhibit a distinct profile for fear and anxiety making them increasingly vulnerable to the onset of a phobia or specific fear. In their investigation they found that children with an autism spectrum disorder reported more situation phobias and medical fears. Furthermore these fears and phobias were related to behavioural problems they were also demonstrating. Therefore phobias and fears can develop in children from quite a young age and in addition children with an autism spectrum disorder may be more susceptible to developing a phobia or specific fear.


    Evans, D., Canavera, K., Kleinpeter, F., Maccubbin, E., & Taga, K. (2005). The fears, phobia and anxieties of children with autism spectrum disorders and down syndrome: Comparisons with developmentally and chronologically age matched children. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 36, 3-26. doi:10.1007/510578.004.3619-x

    Lichtenstein, P., & Anna’s, P. (2000). Heritability and prevalence of specific fears and phobias in childhood. The Journal of Child Psychology and Child Psychiatry, 41, 927-937. doi: 10.1111/146-7610.00680

  2. bngpsych says:

    Anxiety disorders such as phobias are easily recognisable. If the symptoms are not due to another disorder such as; schizophrenia then the diagnosis of phobias is seemingly simple. If the fear of a certain situation is not proportional to the danger, and the individual has an increasing desire to avoid the condition, then the individual is suffering from symptoms of phobia. While it may seem compelling to escape the situation, unless it is an agoraphobic, the phobia will not necessarily impair the individual’s everyday life.

    Seligman argues that phobias are caused by evolutionary development, that we instinctively attain phobias due to evolutionary survival functions, calling it the ‘biological preparedness’. Carey and Gottesman (1981) used twin studies to determine whether anxiety disorders were genetic. They found that in comparison to dizygotic twin rates, monozygotic twins had higher concordance rates, arguing that genetics plays a role on anxiety disorders, such as, phobias.

    Freud, founder of psychoanalytic psychology, argued that phobias are caused by ones unconscious anxieties, which are placed onto external objects. However, this theory has many criticisms.

    Phobias have been looked at by psychologists in the learning theory as well, such as, Watson and Rayner (1920). During their ‘little Albert’ experiment, they conditioned a little boy to be afraid of a white rat (Gleitman, Gross, Reisberg, 2010). They argue that phobias can be conditioned and unconditioned out of individuals. There are many theories as to the origins of phobias; however, there is no one unified approach to understanding of them.

    Gleitman, H., Gross, J., & Reisberg, D. (2010). Psychology (8th ed.). New York, US: WW Norton & Company Ltd.

  3. psuf1d says:

    It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between a fear and a phobia.
    Fear is a basic,natural, human emotion, it can be mild or it can be intense, it is instinctive and and helps protect us,
    A phobia is different in the way that it is irrational, the feeling of fear is completely disproportionate to the situation, it is considered a psychological disorder according to the Allpsych journal.

    It has been suggested that fears expereinced in children have alot to do with the childs inexperience and general misconceptions. Children between the ages of 3 and 6 seem to have a tendency to confuse real life with dreams and fantasy which develop into fears but fade quickly as the child learns from thier misinterpretations.
    A child’s inconsistency is what he/she fears one day and has forgotten about the next, is considered by some to be nothing more than just a stage of child development (Schaeffer.C.E,1987) This is considered to be why children with phobias tend to progress into normal adults.

  4. katstats says:

    Frohilch et al (1996) States fear starts with the perception of danger, and then followed quickly phsyiological changers. However, In an emergency we are quick to defend ourselves before feeling fear. This may suggest their are different componenets too fear and neurological pathways may hve something to do with differentiating those componenets.
    I’ve had a true phobia of wasps since I was a child, I don’t know how I got this as it wasn’t passed from parents, and I know as I’ve got older, the phobia has worsened. I agree with your last paragraph that reacting to things nicely may change perception or prevent a fear, my mum did this to me with spiders and I am not afraid of them. However, I feel that if someone was to treat wasps nicely in front of me, that would not change my phobia in the slightest because of the experience and fear I have had from over the years growing up towards wasps. So it may seem this technique may only work with children as they havn’t had the experience of the fear from growing up.

  5. csw92 says:

    Phobias can encompass a number of different anxiety disorders, these can include social phobias as well as the specific phobias to things such as spiders etc. Phobias can also grow from being a fear of a specific insect for instance to a fear of all insect and it is best treated by exposure therapy to the thing a person is most afraid of in a gradual way.

  6. psuf2c says:

    I agree that adults (and children) can have specific phobias but this is not the only kind of phobia. There are three main types of phobias the first is specific phobias (such as arachnophobia), the second is agoraphobia. This is the fear of being trapped public or a public situation. The third is social phobias which can include speaking in public. When you mentioned children and their fear of school this can come from social phobias. If a child has a phobia of interacting and speaking socially then school is the place where this will happen for them the most. For a child a way to avoid the social phobia is to not to go to place where they feel frightened. So they can refuse to go to school. If a parent is not aware of the child’s social phobia then this social phobia may go unnoticed.

    The idea you mentioned about children developing specific phobias from their parents has been supported. Biederman et al (1993) looked at children who had signs of behavioural instability (Kagan, 1994). When these children were at primary school Biederman et al found that these children had higher autonomic nervous system activity along with the highest amount of specific phobias. These results were not only found in children with behavioural instabilities, they were also found on children whose parents showed social phobias like anxiety. This suggests that children can develop phobias from their parents but it can also be genetics that can cause this.

    Biederman, J., Rosenbaum, J.F., Bolduc-Murphy, E.A., Faraone, S.V., Chaloff, J., Hirshfield, D.R., & Kagan, J. (1993). A 3-year follow up of children with and without behavioural inhibition. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 32(4), 814-821

    Kagan, J. (1994). Galen’s prophecy: temperament in human nature. New York: Basic Books.

  7. There are many explanations for why and how an individual develops a phobia. One key theory is the biological explanation. Part of this approach considers an evolutionary perspective by suggesting that we are more prepared to acquire phobias of some things than others. Taking your phobia, people are more likely to develop a fear of snakes rather than a fear of grass. This is because we evolved with a fear of things that may harm us. A person who had a fear of snakes may well have avoided dangerous snakes and therefore survived to pass on their fear in their genes, whereas a person who has no fear may have been bitten, died and therefore not passed on those genes. Ohman (1975) showed how it is easier to produce phobias of snakes than of non-threatening items such as houses or faces. Shocks were given out after the participant was either shown a picture of a snake, face or house and their fear was then measured by skin conductance. It was found that when the participants were shocked after seeing a picture of a snake, skin conductance was higher. Sweating more which is a physiological response to fear. The Behaviourist explanation however states that we are born as blank slates and that all behaviour is learnt. Therefore any disorder is learned through the processes of conditioning be that classical, operant or social learning and so is due to nurture. This therefore places responsibility on parents to not ‘teach’ their phobia to their children. Watson and Raynor (1920) is a great example of Classical Conditioning and how as a child a phobia can be learnt from others.
    Ohman et Al (1975) –
    Watson and Raynor (1920) –

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