Children's nighttime fears: Parent-child ratings of frequency, content, origins, coping behaviors and severity

P.E.H.M. Muris*, H.L.G.J. Merckelbach, T.H. Ollendick, N.J. King, N. Bogie

*Corresponding author for this work

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The present study investigated nighttime fears in normal school children aged 4 to 12 yr (N=176). Children and their parents were interviewed about the frequency,: content. origins, coping behaviors and severity of children's nighttime fears. Results showed that 73.3% bf the children reported nighttime fears, indicating that these fears are quite prevalent. Inspection of the developmental course of nighttime fears revealed that these fears are common among 4- to 6-year-olds, become even more frequent in 7- to 9-year-olds and then remain relatively stable in 10- to 12-year-olds. Inspection of the origins of nighttime fears revealed that most of the children (i.e,, almost 80%) attributed their fear to negative information; conditioning and modeling were endorsed less frequently (25.6% and 13.2%, respectively). A substantial percentage of the children (24.0%) indicated that learning experiences had not played a role in the acquisition of their nighttime fears. Children reported a variety of coping strategies in order to deal with their nighttime fears and generally rated these strategies as helpful in reducing anxiety. Furthermore, children's nighttime fears were associated with moderate levels of anxiety. Moreover, in about 10% of the children, nighttime fears were related to one or more DSM-III-R anxiety disorders. Finally, parental reports of children's nighttime fears substantially deviated from children's reports. Most importantly, parents provided a marked underestimation of the frequency of nighttime fears, at least as reported by their children.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-28
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2001

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