Fear of children

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Fear of children, fear of infants or fear of childhood is alternatively called pedophobia (American English), paedophobia[1] or pediaphobia.[2][3] Other age-focused fears are ephebiphobia and gerontophobia. Recognised outcomes of pedophobia include paternalism, adultism, and by extension, ageism.


The word pedophobia comes from the Greek roots παιδ- paid- "child" and φόβος -phóbos "fear."

Scientific analysis[edit]

The fear of children has been diagnosed and treated by psychiatrists, with studies examining the effects of multiple forms of treatment.[4] Sociologists have situated "contemporary fears about children and childhood", e.g. paedophobia, 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.[5] More than one study has identified the fear of children as a factor affecting biological conception in humans.[6][7]

Popular perception[edit]

Paedophobia is the raison d'etre for several international social justice movements addressing young people, including children's rights and youth participation. Major international organisations addressing paedophobia, either outright or by implication, include Save the Children and Children's Defense Fund. However, some organisations, particularly those associated with the youth rights movement, claim that these movements perpetuate paedophobia.[8]

The complexity of this notion is exacerbated by observations by experts such as Letty Cottin Pogrebin,[clarification needed] a founding editor of Ms. magazine, who is said to have 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 peoples' children."[9]


One author suggests that the cause of the fear of children in academia specifically extends from adults' distinct awareness of the capacity of children as she wrote, "Children embarrass us because they point ever too cleverly and clearly to our denial of personal, material, and maternal history."[10] A separate report suggests that the source of current trends in the fear of children have a specific source, namely,

James Q. Wilson, a professor at UCLA's School of Management... back in 1975... helped inaugurate the current climate of paedophobia [when he said] "a critical mass of younger persons... creates an explosive increase in the amount of crime."[11]

Addressing the issue[edit]

As mentioned above, social service, human rights, and social justice organizations have been tackling the fear of children for dozens of years. The United Nations has created the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is implicitly designed to address pedophobia by fostering intergenerational equity between children and adults.[12]

As evidenced above, paedophobia is distinctly addressed by academic, especially evidenced since the creation of the field of Youth studies. The influence of the fear of children in American popular culture is examined by critical media analysts who have identified the effects of paedophobia in both Disney[13] and horror films.[14]

A wide range of other authors and scholars, including Henry Giroux,[15] Mike Males and Barbara Kingsolver,[16] have suggested that the popular modern fear of children 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]

Voluntary childless couples or childfree individuals[edit]

While there are many families in the world, not all couples or even humans desire to have families or children. The United States Bureau of the Census conducted a study in 1971, which they say the data still seems to be the same today concerning birth rates and parent-to-child ratios.[citation needed] They believe it is too early to say that (increased rates of childless families) foretell a future increase of childless homes in general or just later birth.[18] The number of married couples voluntarily choosing to be childless are only increasing. As social trends are hard to predict and therefore fertility expectations, attitudes, behaviors and such are uneasy to consistently gather data for, leaving voluntarily childlessness hard to track.[citation needed] There is a forum on the popular website, Reddit, where self-described childfree individuals from around the world discuss the childfree lifestyle. [19]

According to Agnieszka Bień et al.,the number of women choosing to remain childless is increasing for many reasons. This choice to remain childless is due to different and emerging socio-cultural factors including: a different outlook on a professional career and life, shifting focus to self-fulfillment and individualism, and changing patterns of norms of family types. In more recent years, society has become more open-minded and accepting to the choosing to not have children. Overpopulation and climate change are some other factors that influence a woman's decision to remain voluntarily childless. Not only is society accepting this idea and choice more, the choice of being childless to some degree is even becoming desired.[20]

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. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Kemeter, P. & Fiegl, J. (1998) "Adjusting to life when assisted conception fails," Human Reproduction. 134 p. 1099–1105.
  7. ^ McDonald, R. (1968) "The Role of Emotional Factors in Obstetric Complications: A Review," Psychosomatic Medicine 30 p. 222-237. American Psychosomatic Society.
  8. ^ Axon, K. (n.d.) The Anti-Child Bias of Children's Advocacy Groups Chicago, IL: Americans for a Society Free of Age Restrictions.
  9. ^ L. Pogrebin, as cited in Zelizer, V. (1994) Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children Princeton University Press.
  10. ^ Coiner, C. & George, D.H. (1998) The Family Track: Keeping Your Faculties while You Mentor, Nurture, Teach, and Serve University of Illinois Press.
  11. ^ Murashige, M. (2001). The Future of Change: Youth Perspectives on Social Justice and Cross-Cultural Collaborative Action in Los Angeles. Los Angeles: MultiCultural Collaborative.
  12. ^ Penn, J. (1999) London University Institute of Education.
  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. 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.
  18. ^ Bram, Susan (1985-09-01). "Childlessness revisited: A longitudinal study of voluntarily childless couples, delayed parents, and parents". Lifestyles. 8 (1): 46–66. doi:10.1007/BF01435914. ISSN 0161-570X.
  19. ^ "R/childfree".
  20. ^ Bień, Agnieszka; Rzońca, Ewa; IWANOWICZ-PALUS, GRAŻYNA; Lecyk, Urszula; Bojar, Iwona (2017-05-11). "The quality of life and satisfaction with life of women who are childless by choice". Annals of Agricultural and Environmental Medicine. 24 (2). doi:10.5604/12321966.1235181. ISSN 1232-1966.

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.