This study investigated the effect of filmed peer modeling on fear beliefs and approach-avoidance behaviors towards animals in 8- to 10-year-old typically developing children. Ninety-seven children randomly received either a positive or negative modeling film in which they saw peers interact with a novel animal. Before and after this film, children's fear beliefs and avoidance tendencies towards the modeled and non-modeled control animal were measured. A behavioral approach task was also administered post-modeling. Following positive peer modeling, children's fear beliefs and avoidance tendencies towards the modeled but also towards the non-modeled animal decreased significantly. After negative modeling, children's fear beliefs towards the modeled animal increased significantly, but did not change for the non-modeled animal. Negative modeling did not change avoidance tendencies for the modeled animal, while it decreased children's avoidance of the non-modeled animal. No significant effects were observed on the behavioral approach task. These results support Rachman's indirect pathway of modeling/vicarious learning as a plausible mechanism by which children can acquire fears of novel stimuli and stresses the important fear-reducing effects of positive peer modeling. Clinical implications and directions for future research are discussed.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Children, Fear, Peer modeling, Vicarious learning
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2010.11.001, hdl.handle.net/1765/21897
Note Article in press - dd December 2010
Citation
Broeren, S.M.L., Lester, K.J., Muris, P.E.H.M., & Field, A.P.. (2010). They are afraid of the animal, so therefore I am too: Influence of peer modeling on fear beliefs and approach-avoidance behaviors towards animals in typically developing children. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 49(1), 50–57. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2010.11.001