, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 129-150,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 03 Mar 2010

The Role of Verbal Threat Information in the Development of Childhood Fear. “Beware the Jabberwock!”

Abstract

Rachman’s (Behaviour Research and Therapy 15:372–387, 1977; Clinical Psychology Review 11:155–173, 1991) three pathways theory proposed that childhood fears not only arise as a consequence of direct learning experiences, but can also be elicited by means of threat information transmission. This review looks at the scientific evidence for this idea, which has accumulated during the past three decades. We review research on the influences of media exposure on children’s fears, retrospective parent and child reports on the role of threat information in fear acquisition, and experimental studies that explored the causal effects of threat information on childhood fears. We also discuss possible mechanisms by which threat information exerts its influence and the processes relevant to understand the role of this type of learning experience in the origins of fear. Finally, implications for the prevention and intervention of childhood fears are briefly explored, and potential leads for future research will be highlighted.