The origins of fears in a selected group of middle childhood South African children
Thesis (MA (Psychology))--University of Stellenbosch, 2006.
The aims of the present study were to inquire into the origins of middle childhood South African children’s fears. In order to do this as precisely as possible it was determined to what extent Rachman’s (1977, 1991) three pathways played a role in the experience of the selected sample’s fears; in intensifying their fears; and finally in the actual onset of their fears. The results were examined across the independent variables age, gender, socio-economic status (SES), and culture. In addition, Rachman’s (1977; 1991) hypothesis that stronger, more intense fears originate through Conditioning experiences, while less intense, everyday fears originate through the indirect pathways, namely Modeling and Negative Information/Instruction was tested. The participants consisted of a sample of 660 children aged between 10 and 14 years, attending grades 5 and 7, representing the three main cultural groups found in the Western Cape, South Africa, and residing in low, middle and high socio-economic residential areas. Participants completed a short biographical questionnaire and the Fear Option List (FOL). Data analysis revealed that the majority of participants reported Modeling experiences in connection to their greatest fear, followed by Information and Conditioning experiences. Significant gender, SES, and cultural differences were found. The majority of participants reported that Information experiences were responsible for intensifying their greatest fear, and thus playing a role in maintaining it, followed by Modeling and Conditioning experiences. Significant gender, SES, and cultural differences were found. With regard to the actual onset of participants fears, the majority of participants reported that they had no clear idea of how their fear began, followed by Information, Conditioning, and Modeling. Only significant SES and cultural differences were found. The first half of Rachman’s (1977; 1991) hypothesis was confirmed in that stronger, more intense fears were found to be strongly related to Conditioning experiences. However, the second part of his hypothesis that less intense, everyday fears are likely to originate through the indirect pathways was not confirmed. The implications of the present study’s findings within a South African context are discussed, as well as the limitations of the study and suggestions for future research.