Send to

Choose Destination
Clin Psychol Rev. 2000 Jun;20(4):429-51.

The development of normal fear: a century of research.

Author information

Department of Psychology, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia.


This paper reviews over a century's research into the developmental patterns of normal fear. Normal fear has been defined as a normal reaction to a real or imagined threat and is considered to be an integral and adaptive aspect of development with the primary function of promoting survival. Across a wide range of methodologies and assessment instruments researchers have been particularly focussed on investigating whether fear content, prevalence and intensity differ depending upon age, gender, socio-economic status, and culture. The structure and continuity of normal fears have also received much attention. The most consistently documented findings include that fear decreases in prevalence and intensity with age and that specific fears are transitory in nature. There are also predictable changes in the content of normal fear over the course of development. Such changes are characterized by a transition from infant fears which are related to immediate, concrete and prepotent stimuli, and which are largely non-cognitive, to fears of late childhood and adolescence which are related to anticipatory, abstract, and more global stimuli and events. Recent research into normal fear has more closely examined the validity of the more frequently used current assessment technique (i.e., the fear survey schedule). This research has provided some encouraging results as well as directions for future investigation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center