Buddies feed fears and phobias in kids
Your kid is most likely to exhibit fear or phobia about things or ideas, if his or her ’buddy’ fears the same, a study has found. The findings showed that children in close friends exhibit shared patterns of fear-related thoughts and they influence each other when discussing them together.
Apart from transmitting fears, friends also impart ideas about how to behave in fear-provoking situations. "Our findings indicate that close friends may share negative thoughts and to some extent may maintain these thoughts," said lead author Jinnie Ooi, research associate at University of East Anglia (UEA) in Britain.
Further, children’s fear-related thoughts do not necessarily become more negative when children discuss their fears with close friends who are more anxious, the study said. This supports the use of group therapy and may be useful information for parents concerned that exposure to more anxious children within group-based therapy may increase their child’s anxiety, the researchers said.
School-based interventions aiming to reduce anxiety in primary school-aged children could instruct pairs of close friends to discuss and resolve their worries in a positive manner among each other. "It may also be beneficial to ask children being treated for anxiety disorders to identify whether they have friends who may be influencing or maintaining their negative thoughts.
"It may subsequently be useful for them to be given strategies for how to discuss these thoughts with peers in an adaptive way," Ooi added. In addition, gender pair type predicted change in children’s fear responses over time.
Boys together became more afraid after discussing threatening animals, while girls appeared to make each other feel better when talking, the researchers noted. The study was published in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy.