Child Psychiatry and Human Development

, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 3-26

First online:

The Fears, Phobias and Anxieties of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Down Syndrome: Comparisons with Developmentally and Chronologically Age Matched Children

  • David W. EvansAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Bucknell University Email author 
  • , Kristin CanaveraAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Bucknell University
  • , F. Lee Kleinpeter.Affiliated withDepartment of Psychology, River Parishes Community College
  • , Elise MaccubbinAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of New Orleans
  • , Ken TagaAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Bucknell University

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This study compared the fears and behavior problems of 25 children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), 43 children with Down syndrome (DS), 45 mental age (MA) matched children, and 37 chronologically age (CA) matched children. Children’s fears, phobias, anxieties and behavioral problems were assessed using parent reports. Significant differences emerged across the diagnostic groups on a variety of fears. Children with ASD were reported to have more situation phobias and medical fears, but fewer fears of harm/injury compared to all other groups. The groups also differed in terms of the pattern of correlations between fears, phobias, anxieties and behavior problems. For children with ASD, fears, phobias and anxieties were closely related to problem behaviors, whereas fears, phobias, and anxieties were less related to behavioral symptoms for the other groups of subjects. Such findings suggest that children with ASD exhibit a distinct profile of fear and anxiety compared to other mental age and chronologically age-matched children, and these fears are related to the symptoms associated with ASD.


anxiety fears autism spectrum disorders down syndrome