"Watch out for the Gerbils, my child!" The role of maternal information on children's fear in an experimental setting using real animals

P.E.H.M. Muris, D. Remmerswaal, J. Huijding

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Abstract

Using an experimental approach, we examined the effects of verbal information as provided by the mothers on children's fear of real novel animals. Mothers of children aged 8 to 12 years (N=47) were shown a cage containing a pair of exotic rodents (i.e., Mongolian gerbils) and then received either positive or negative information about these animals. Mothers were told that their child would have to approach the animals and had the opportunity to prepare their children for this confrontation. Results showed that mothers spontaneously passed over the information they had received to their children. Most importantly, this information to some extent determined children's fear reactions towards the animals. That is, whereas no clear effects of information were found on subjective fear ratings, the data did indicate that children of mothers in the negative information condition were more reluctant to approach the animals as compared to children of mothers who had received positive information. The findings provide further support for the idea that verbal information as provided by parents may induce fear in their offspring.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-324
Number of pages8
JournalBehavior Therapy
Volume44
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013

Keywords

  • ANXIETY
  • AVOIDANCE
  • BELIEFS
  • COGNITIONS
  • DISORDERS
  • ORIGINS
  • PROSPECTIVE PARADIGM
  • RACHMANS INDIRECT PATHWAYS
  • RELIABILITY
  • VALIDITY
  • anxiety
  • children
  • fear
  • mothers
  • verbal information transmission

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