Fear of children

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


Fear of children and/or infants or childhood is alternately called pedophobia or pediaphobia.[1][2] Other age-focused fears are ephebiphobia and gerontophobia. Recognized outcomes of pedophobia include paternalism, adultism, and by extension, ageism.

Scientific analysis

The fear of children has been diagnosed and treated by psychiatrists, with studies examining the effects of multiple forms of treatment.[3] Sociologists have situated "contemporary fears about children and childhood", e.g. pedophobia, 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.[4] More than one study has identified the fear of children as a factor affecting biological conception in humans.[5][6]

Popular perception

Pedophobia is the raison d'etre for several international social justice movements addressing young people, including children's rights and youth participation. Major international organizations addressing pedophobia, 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 actually perpetuate pedophobia.[7]

The complicity of this notion is exacerbated by observations by experts such as Letty Cottin-Pogrebin, a founding editor of Ms. magazine, who is said to have diagnosed America as having an "epidemic of pedophobia", saying that,

Though most of us make exceptions for our own offspring, we do not seem particularly warm-hearted towards other peoples' children.[8]

Causes of the fear of children

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."[9] 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 pedophobia [when he said] 'a critical mass of younger persons... creates an explosive increase in the amount of crime.'[10]

Addressing the fear of children

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.[11]

As evidenced above, pedophobia is distinctly addressed by academic, especially evidenced since the creation of the field of Youth studies. Exploring R. Kelly's pedophilia and the victimization of females in the African American community, Michael Eric Dyson, a recognized scholar in the areas of religion and humanities, addresses pedophobia head-on, suggesting that the way to change the popular fear of children is to,

Pay attention to a culture of subtle pedophobia that ignores the devasting impact on children's lives of the practices we have learned to take for granted in our communities.[12]

The influence of the fear of children 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]

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 actually stems from corporatization of mass media and its complicity with a range of political and economic interests. Males perhaps goes the furthest, actually writing an entire book exploring the subject[17]

See also


  1. Kring, A., Davison, G., et al (2006) Abnormal Psychology Wiley.
  2. Djordjevic, S. (2004) Dictionary of Medicine: French-English with English-French Glossary. Schreiber Publishing, Inc.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  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. Axon, K. (n.d.) The Anti-Child Bias of Children's Advocacy Groups Chicago, IL: Americans for a Society Free of Age Restrictions.
  8. L. Pogrebin, as cited in Zelizer, V. (1994) Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children Princeton University Press.
  9. Coiner, C. & George, D.H. (1998) The Family Track: Keeping Your Faculties while You Mentor, Nurture, Teach, and Serve University of Illinois Press.
  10. Murashige, M. (2001). The Future of Change: Youth Perspectives on Social Justice and Cross-Cultural Collaborative Action in Los Angeles. Los Angeles: MultiCultural Collaborative.
  11. Penn, J. (1999) [www.childcarecanada.org/pubs/fs/fs5.pdf The Rights Of Young Children.] London University Institute of Education.
  12. Dyson, M.E. (2004) Mercy, Mercy Me: The Art, Loves and Demons of Marvin Gaye Basic Civitas Books.
  13. Giroux, H. (1999) The Mouse that Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  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.

Related reading

  • 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.

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