Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 121–128 | Cite as

Ritualistic Behavior in Young Children

  • Ada H. Zohar
  • Levia Felz


The aim of this study was to examine ritualistic behavior at its developmental peak. Children 20–59 months of age were sampled through a national system of daycare centers in Israel (N = 228). The order of onset of the ritual behaviors measured was virtually identical to that reported for an American sample (D. W. Evans et al., 1997). Gender and age effects were found for fearfulness but not for ritualistic behavior. Maternal reports of ritualistic behavior were highly correlated with reported fears, and with shy and emotional temperament. Mothers of the children who were in the top 10% in their use of rituals according to maternal report, worried about their child's ritualistic behavior, even though maternal worry was not correlated with ritualistic behavior for the whole distribution.

ritualistic behavior children gender differences fears temperament 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Auerbach, J. L., Yirmia, N., & Kamel, F. N. (1996). Behavior problems in Israeli Jewish and Palestinian preschool children. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 25, 398–405.Google Scholar
  2. Bauer, D. H. (1976). An exploratory study of developmental changes in children's fears. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 17, 69–74.Google Scholar
  3. Bowlby, J. (1973). Attachment and loss: Vol. II. Separation anxiety and anger. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  4. Burnham, J. J., & Gullone, E. (1997). The survey schedule for children-II: A psychometric investigation with American data. Behavior Research and Therapy, 35, 165–173.Google Scholar
  5. Buss, A. H., & Plomin, R. (1984). Temperament: Early developing personality traits. Hillsdale, N. J.: Lawrence Earlbaum.Google Scholar
  6. Carter, A. S., Pauls, D. L., & Leckman, J. F. (1995). The development of obsessionality: Continuities and discontinuities. In D. Cicchetti & D. H. Cohen (Eds.), Developmental psychopathology (Vol. 1, pp. 609–633). New York: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  7. Chavira, D. A., & Stein, M. B. (1999). The shyness spectrum. CNS Spectrums, 4, 20–29.Google Scholar
  8. Erikson, E. H. (1977). Toys and reasons New York: W. U. Norton & Company.Google Scholar
  9. Evans, D. W., Leckman, J. F., Carter, A., Reznick, J. S., Henshaw, D., King, R. A., & Pauls D. L. (1997). Ritual, habit and perfectionism: the prevalence and development of compulsive-like behavior in normal young children. Child Development, 68(1), 58–68.Google Scholar
  10. Fox, A. N., Rubin, K. H., Calkins, S. D., Marshall, T. R., Coplan, R. J., Porges, S. W., Long, J. M., & Stewart, S. (1995). Frontal activation asymmetry and social competence at four years of age. Child Development, 66, 1770–1784.Google Scholar
  11. Gesell, A., Ames, L. B., & Ilg, F. L. (1974). Infant and the child in culture today. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  12. Judd, R. (1965). Obsessive-compulsive neurosis in children. Archives of General Psychiatry, 12, 136–143.Google Scholar
  13. Kagan, J. (1997). Temperament and the reactions to unfamiliarity. Child Development, 68(1), 139–143.Google Scholar
  14. Kochanska, G. (1993). Toward a synthesis of parental socialization and child temperament in early development of conscious. Child Development, 64, 325–347.Google Scholar
  15. Kochanska, G. (1995). Children's temperament, mothers' discipline, and security of attachment: Multiple pathways to emerging internalization. Child Development, 66, 597–615.Google Scholar
  16. Leonard, H. L. (1989). Childhood rituals and superstitions, developmental and cultural perspective. In J. C. Rapoport (Ed.), Obsessive-compulsive disorder in children and adolescents (pp. 289–309). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press.Google Scholar
  17. Leonard, H. L., Goldberger, E. L., Rapoport, J. L., Cheslow, D. L., & Swedo, S. E. (1990). Childhood rituals: Normal developmental or obsessive-compulsive symptoms? Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 29, 17–23.Google Scholar
  18. Miller, L. C. (1992). Fears and anxieties in children. In A. Davis (Ed.), Child personality and psychopathology: Current topics (Vol. 1, pp. 12–33). New York: Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  19. Ollendick, T. H. (1983). Reliability and validity of the revised fear survey schedule for children (FSSC-R). Behavior Research and Therapy, 21, 685–692.Google Scholar
  20. Piaget, J. (1950). The psychology of intelligence (pp. 167–173). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  21. Poulton, R., Trainor, P., Stanton, W., McGee, R., Davies, S., & Silva, P. (1997). The (in) stability of adolescent fears. Behavior Research and Therapy, 35(2), 159–163.Google Scholar
  22. Rosenbaum, J. F., Biederman, J., & Bolduc-Murphy, E. A. (1993). Behavioral inhibition in childhood: A risk factor for anxiety disorders. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 1, 2–16.Google Scholar
  23. Spence, S. H., & McCathnine, H. (1993). The stability of fears in children: A two-year prospective study. A research note. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 34, 579–585.Google Scholar
  24. Zohar, A. H. (1999). The epidemiology of OCD in childhood and adolescence. In R. A. King & N. S. L. Scahill (Eds.), Obsessive compulsive disorder in children and adolescents child and adolescent psychiatric clinics of North America (pp. 445–460). Pennsylvania: WB Saunders.Google Scholar
  25. Zohar, A. H., & Bruno, R. (1997). Normative and pathological obsessive-compulsive behavior and ideation in childhood; a question of timing. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 38(8), 993–999.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ada H. Zohar
    • 1
    • 2
  • Levia Felz
    • 1
  1. 1.The Scheinfeld Center for Human Genetics in the Social Sciences, Department of PsychologyHebrew UniversityJerusalemIsrael
  2. 2.Ruppin Academic CenterEmek HeferIsrael

Personalised recommendations