The expressed fear profile of South African 1st year students : current and retrospective

Melrose, Sharon N. G. (2005-12)

Thesis (MA (Psychology))--University of Stellenbosch, 2005.


The primary aim of this study was to determine the content and number of fears expressed by 1st year students at a tertiary institution both retrospectively and currently. The expressed retrospective profile aimed to determine the content and number of fears recalled by the sample group when they were six years old. The expressed current profile aimed to determine the content and number of fears currently being experienced. The study also aimed to establish whether there were significant gender differences in the two profiles. This study found that there were no significant differences between males and females in terms of content or number of expressed fears for the retrospective profile. Both groups indicated the most reported fears for Dark/Night, followed by fears of People and Animals, although in different rank orders. The fears were of a specific nature as the five highest ranked categories accounted for almost 70% of the fears expressed. In addition, the actual fear profile of pre-school children as found by Loxton (2004) was compared to the retrospective fear profile as the sample group recalled it. This study confirmed Loxton’s findings as the three highest ranked categories of the retrospective expressed profile covered the five highest ranked categories in the actual profile. This study found that males and females shared four of the five most common ranked fears for the current expressed profile, namely Failure, Harm to Others, Animals and Future. This study did not confirm the expected decline in animal fears as predicted by the literature, but the other fears would appear to comply with the body of research for the content of the late adolescents’ expressed fears. These fears were more diverse in nature and the ten highest ranked categories accounted for about 70% of the fears expressed. Statistically significant gender differences were found in terms of Dark/Night, Being Alone, Violence/Crime, Separation and Relational Problems. The expected decline in the number of expressed fears was not confirmed as the average number of fears per participant increased slightly from the retrospective profile to the current profile. There was no significant difference with regard to gender. The secondary aim of this study was to establish whether any of the expressed fears have remained constant from the retrospective profile to the current profile. The fear of Animals appeared to be one fear that, rather than decline with age, remained stable. Other fears that appeared to show continuity were related to Harm to Self and Harm to Others. Fear of Being Alone appeared in both the retrospective and current expressed profiles for females only. A fear that was indicated in the literature to be relevant at the late adolescent stage of development was the fear of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. This study found no evidence to support these predictions, which is a thought-provoking problem. Although beyond the scope of this study, the implications of this apparent lack of fear for a life-threatening problem of epidemic proportions particularly for this age group, is of concern.

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