An assessment instrument for fear in middle childhood South African children.

Burkhardt, Irmgard Kathe-Erla (2007-12)

Thesis (DSc (Psychology))--University of Stellenbosch, 2007.


Fears are a normal part of development but excessive fears may interfere with daily functioning and may reflect serious anxiety problems. In order to determine whether fears are excessive or not, as well as to implement prevention programmes, an assessment instrument is needed that is socially and scientifically relevant to the context in which the child lives. Furthermore, normative data is necessary in order to understand the concept of fear. The primary aim of the study was to develop a measuring instrument that is scientifically and socially relevant within the South African context. This entailed a qualitative stage where semi-structured interviews were conducted with 40 middle childhood children attending four local primary schools in the Stellenbosch area. These interviews were transcribed and analysed for emerging themes. The emerging themes were then added to the existing Fear Survey Schedule for Children-Revised (FSSC-R). Reliability analyses were conducted on the data obtained by the adapted FSSC-R. Item-total correlations and exploration of the item construct resulted in 23 items being deleted. The remaining items on the scale demonstrated good internal consistency (α = 0,97). The factor structure of the remaining items was explored by means of principal factor analysis with varimax rotation. Various factor solutions were explored and the five-factor solution was found to be the best conceptual fit for the data. The five factors are: Factor I-Fear of Danger and Death, Factor II-Fear of the Unknown, Factor III-Worries, Factor IV-Fear of Animals, Factor V-Situational Fears. The adapted scale is a South African version of Ollendick’s FSSC-R and is referred to as the FSSC-SA. The secondary aim was to determine the content, number, level and pattern of fear of a selected group of middle childhood South African children, living in the Western Cape, based on the results of the South African Fear Survey Schedule for Children (FSSC-SA). This entailed a quantitative stage. The adapted FSSC-R was completed by 646 middle childhood children between the ages of 7 and 12 years, attending four primary schools in the Stellenbosch area in the Western Cape Province. The participants were also requested to complete a biographical questionnaire before they completed the adapted FSSC-R. Culture was defined with respect to the main representative cultural communities in the Stellenbosch area, namely black, coloured and white. The results of the South African fear instrument indicate that the most feared item for the South African children is ‘getting HIV’. The ten most common fears indicate that fears are to a certain extent universal but that some fears also reflect the context in which a child lives. Furthermore the added items also featured among the most fear eliciting items suggest that these items reflect the societal concerns, issues and fears of South African children. Black South African children displayed the highest number as well as level of fear, followed by the coloured South African children and then the white South African children. This was also applicable to the pattern of fear. Gender differences are apparent with respect to number, level and pattern of fears with girls consistently expressing more fears than boys. This applies to all cultural groups. In conclusion, implications of the present study’s results in the South African context as well as shortcomings and recommendations for future studies are discussed.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL:
This item appears in the following collections: