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Fear of children

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Fear of children
Other namesPedophobia, paedophobia, pediaphobia

Fear of children, or occasionally called paedophobia, is fear triggered by the presence or thinking of children or infants. It is an emotional state of fear, disdain, aversion, or prejudice toward children or youth. Paedophobia is in some usages identical to ephebiphobia.[1][2][3]

The fear of children has been diagnosed and treated by psychiatrists, with studies examining the effects of multiple forms of treatment.[4] Studies have identified the fear of children as a factor affecting biological conception in humans.[5][6]


Paedophobia is the British English spelling, and pediaphobia is another alternate spelling. The terms come from the Greek roots παιδ- paid- (child) and φόβος -phóbos (fear). Pedophobia is not to be confused with pediophobia (fear of dolls) or podophobia (fear of feet).


Letty Cottin Pogrebin, a founding editor of Ms. magazine, diagnosed America as having an "epidemic of paedophobia", saying that, "though most of us make exceptions for our own offspring, we do not seem particularly warm-hearted towards other people's children."[7] Evidenced more succinctly by the Cinderella effect in evolutionary psychology, this may mostly be explained via kin selection.

One author suggests that the cause of the fear of children in academia specifically extends from adults' distinct awareness of the capacity of children: "Children embarrass us because they point ever too cleverly and clearly to our denial of personal, material, and maternal history."[8]

One report suggests that the source of current trends in the fear of children have a specific source: James Q. Wilson, a professor at UCLA's School of Management, who in 1975 helped inaugurate the current climate of pedophobia when he said "a critical mass of younger persons... creates an explosive increase in the amount of crime."[9]

Sociologists have situated "contemporary fears about children and childhood" as "contributing to the ongoing social construction of childhood", suggesting that "generational power relations, in which children's lives are bounded by adult surveillance" affect many aspects of society.[10]

Efforts to decrease[edit]

Efforts to decrease inattention to the needs of children or opposition to youths is a focus of several international social justice movements addressing young people, including children's rights and youth participation. Major international organizations addressing discrimination, either outright or by implication, include Save the Children and Children's Defense Fund. However, some organizations, particularly those associated with the youth rights movement, claim that these movements perpetuate discrimination.[11]

The United Nations has created the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is implicitly designed to foster intergenerational equity between children and adults.[12]

The influence of the fear of youths in American popular culture is examined by critical media analysts who have identified the effects of pedophobia in both Disney[13] and horror films.[14]

Other authors and scholars, including Henry Giroux,[15] Mike Males, and Barbara Kingsolver[16] have suggested that the popular modern fear of youths stems from corporatisation of mass media and its complicity with a range of political and economic interests. Males perhaps goes the furthest, and wrote an entire book exploring the subject.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lewis, Paul (23 October 2006). "Fear of teenagers is growing in Britain, study warns". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2 January 2011. But it appears that an aversion to young people, or "paedophobia", is becoming a national phenomenon.
  2. ^ Kring, A., Davison, G., et al. (2006) Abnormal Psychology Wiley.
  3. ^ Djordjevic, S. (2004) Dictionary of Medicine: French-English with English-French Glossary. Schreiber Publishing, Inc.
  4. ^ Schwartz, C., Houlihan, D., Krueger, K. F., Simon, D. A. (1997) "The Behavioral Treatment of a Young Adult with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a Fear of Children," Child & Family Behavior Therapy, 191, p37-49.
  5. ^ Kemeter, P. & Fiegl, J. (1998) "Adjusting to life when assisted conception fails," Human Reproduction. 134 p. 1099–1105.
  6. ^ McDonald, R. (1968) "The Role of Emotional Factors in Obstetric Complications: A Review," Psychosomatic Medicine 30 p. 222-237. American Psychosomatic Society.
  7. ^ L. Pogrebin, as cited in Zelizer, V. (1994) Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children Princeton University Press.
  8. ^ Coiner, C. & George, D.H. (1998) The Family Track: Keeping Your Faculties while You Mentor, Nurture, Teach, and Serve University of Illinois Press.
  9. ^ Murashige, M. (2001). The Future of Change: Youth Perspectives on Social Justice and Cross-Cultural Collaborative Action in Los Angeles. Los Angeles: MultiCultural Collaborative Archived 2007-12-13 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ Scott, S., Jackson, S., & Backett-milburnswings, K. (1998) "Swings and roundabouts: Risk anxiety and the everyday worlds of children," Sociology, 32 p. 689-705. Cambridge University Press.
  11. ^ Axon, K. (n.d.) The Anti-Child Bias of Children's Advocacy Groups Archived August 20, 2006, at the Wayback Machine Chicago, IL: Americans for a Society Free of Age Restrictions.
  12. ^ Penn, J. (1999), The Rights Of Young Children. London University Institute of Education. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original on October 11, 2008. Retrieved April 23, 2010.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  13. ^ Giroux, H. (1999) The Mouse that Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
  14. ^ Phillips, K. (2005) Projected Fears: Horror Films and American Culture. Praeger Publishers
  15. ^ (n.d.) Reading List on Henry Giroux Archived 2007-02-06 at the Wayback Machine. The Freechild Project.
  16. ^ Dudley-Marling, C., Jackson, J., & Patel, L. (2006) "Disrespecting Childhood, Phi Delta Kappan 8710 (June 2006).
  17. ^ Males, M. (2001) Kids and Guns: How Politicians, Experts, and the Media Fabricate Fear of Youth. Common Courage Press.

Further reading[edit]

  • Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys by Daniel J. Kindlon, Michael Thompson, et al.
  • Prout, R. (2001) Fear and Gendering: Pedophobia, Effeminophobia, and Hyermasculine Desire in the Work of Juan Goytisolo, 'Worlds of Change, 42.
  • Scharf, R. (2001) "Pedophobia, the gynarchy, and the androcracy," Journal of Psychohistory 28(3) (Winter 2001) p. 281-302.