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Behav Res Ther. 1991;29(2):117-23.

Origins of childhood fears: an evaluation of Rachman's theory of fear acquisition.

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Department of Psychology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg 24061-0436.


This study explored Rachman's (1977) theory of fear acquisition in a large sample of Australian and American children and adolescents. Participants completed a questionnaire that addressed different pathways of fear acquisition for 10 highly prevalent fears. The majority of children attributed the onset of their fears to vicarious and instructional factors, although these indirect sources of fear were often combined with direct conditioning experiences. Also examined were effects for gender, age, and nationality. Boys and preadolescents were found to report more direct and vicarious experiences than girls or adolescents. Effects due to nationality were minimal. Methodological limitations attendant to self-reports were acknowledged.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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