Assessing Fear of Storms and Severe Weather: Validation of the Storm Fear Questionnaire (SFQ)
To date, research on storm phobia has been limited by a lack of validated self-report measures for evaluating the severity of anxiety, phobic avoidance, and distress associated with storms and severe weather. The current research presents the development and validation of the Storm Fear Questionnaire (SFQ), a 15-item self-report questionnaire that assesses the cognitive, affective, and behavioral aspects thought to be associated with Storm Phobia in adults. Three studies were conducted to assess 1) the factor structure, internal consistency, and convergent and discriminant validity of the SFQ, 2) the test-retest reliability of the SFQ, 3) the extent that scores on the SFQ were associated with subjective anxiety ratings during a Behavioral Approach Test (BAT) involving exposure to a virtual thunderstorm, and the extent to which SFQ scores distinguished community participants with versus without a fear of storms. Exploratory factor analyses supported a one-factor model with good internal consistency (Cronbach’s α = .95), good convergent and discriminant validity with self-report measures of anxiety, worry, depression, and other specific phobias, and acceptable test-retest reliability. Moreover, there was a significant positive association between SFQ scores and anxiety ratings following the BAT involving exposure to a virtual thunderstorm and participants with a high fear of storms reported significantly higher SFQ scores than those with a low fear of storms. In sum, the SFQ has good psychometric properties and appears to be a valuable tool for assessing the severity of fear associated with storms and severe weather. Research evaluating the diagnostic and clinical utility of the SFQ is still needed.