The “normal” development of fear
Children seem to be particularly prone to experience anxiety phenomena. Research has shown that worry (Muris, Meesters, Merckelbach, Sermon, & Zwakhalen, 1998; Silverman, La Greca, & Wasserstein, 1995), night-time anxiety (Gordon, King, Gullone, Muris, & Ollendick, 2007; King, Ollendick, & Tonge, 1997; Muris, Merckelbach, Ollendick, King, & Bogie, 2001), scary dreams and nightmares (Mindell & Barrett, 2002), anxiety-related physiological symptoms (Weems, Zakem, Costa, Cannon, & Watts, 2005), panic attacks (Hayward, Killen, & Taylor, 1989; King, Gullone, Tonge, & Ollendick, 1993), and obsessive--compulsive disorder related rituals (Leonard, Goldberger, Rapoport, Cheslow, & Swedo, 1990) are commonly observed in non-clinical youths. Quite a number of studies have focused on childhood fear (Gullone, 2000). Findings of this research generally indicate that fear is in essence benign and non-pathological by nature (e.g., Craske, 1997). Children experience relatively mild fears that appear and disappear spontaneously and follow a predictable course. These developmentally appropriate or “normal” fears should be distinguished from phobias and anxiety disorders, which are out of proportion to the demands of the situation that evokes it, cannot be rationalized, are involuntary, lead to avoidance of the situation, and interfere with daily functioning (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Although for most children normal fears naturally wax and wane, as this chapter shows, it is likely that childhood fears may be the seeds for more pervasive and severe anxiety symptoms or disorders (in the sense that a normal fear may, for whatever reason, increase in magnitude and persist beyond its natural course: Muris, 2006, 2007).