Saturday, February 4, 2012

Where did that Top Ten list come from?

In my last post I discussed an article on children’s fears from 2002 by Peter Muris and Thomas H. Ollendick. Dr. Muris also wrote a book on Normal and Abnormal Fear and Anxiety in Children and Adolescents (Elsevier, 2007). On page 4 he gave his top ten list for common fears among youths:

1. Not being able to breathe
2. Being hit by a car or truck
3. Bombing attacks/being invaded
4. Getting burned by fire
5. Falling from a high place
6. Burglar breaking into the house
7. Earthquake
8. Death/dead people
9. Illness
10. Snakes  

He said the list was based on several studies using the Fear Survey Schedule for Children Revised (FSSC-R). Public speaking isn't on the list. When you read his opinion you know five things a journalist always asks: who, what, when, where, and how.

Contrast that with a web article on the Top 10 Things Children Fear posted on FearOfStuff. Their list is:

1. Divorce
2. Loss of a parent
3. Personal danger
4. War
5. Doctor
6. Being alone in the dark
7. Death
8. Monsters and ghosts
9. Animals
10. Public speaking

That list probably is drivel. The silly article doesn’t answer any of those five things a journalist asks.

Their list might as well have come to us the same authoritative way the best known TopTen list did, as illustrated above, except that when you scroll to the bottom of the web page you instead find the usual disclaimer that:

“The phobia information contained on the web site is not intended as, and is not, a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek professional medical counsel for proper diagnosis and treatment.” 

There is a good reason why public speaking doesn’t belong on a top ten list  of children’s fears. As I discussed last year, typically it rears its ugly head in early adolescence, but sometimes it does not show up until early adulthood.   

The Gustave Doré image of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments came from Wikimedia Commons.

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