[Fear of the dark in adolescence and emerging adulthood: general model, gender and age differences]

Psychiatr Hung. 2014;29(2):138-51.
[Article in Hungarian]


Introduction: In our study we investigated fear of the dark in adolescence and emerging adulthood. First, we define fear and anxiety, which constitute together fear of the dark. We present the cognitive and interactionist models of fear, individual differences that affect the formation and maintenance of fear and the developmental aspects of this topic. The aim of our study was to map the phenomenon in adolescence and emerging adulthood, with respect to gender and age differences, and individual factors that affect the genesis of fear of the dark.

Methods: 83 secondary school (34 females) and 57 university students (29 females) filled our survey package. To measure the frequency of fear of the dark we used a self-developed scale. Our subjects also reported about the content and origin of their fears, and coping strategies applied against these fears. Individual differences were operationalized as trait anxiety, dysfunctional attitudes and self-esteem.

Results: 71 per cent of respondents reported to have experienced fear of dark at least rarely. Women - compared to men - indicated imagination as source of their fears, and were more likely to use avoidance, attention detraction and social support as coping. University students - compared to secondary school students - reported negative information as origin of their fears, and preferred avoidance as a mode of coping with them. Contents of fear showed no significant difference between either genders or age groups. In a pathway model we found that gender had a direct effect on the frequency of fear of the dark. Dysfunctional attitudes affected the frequency of fear via trait anxiety and low selfesteem.

Conclusions: Fear of the dark effects a significant proportion of adolescents and emerging adults even in a non-clinical sample. Our results confirm and supplement former results concerning gender and age differences. The pathway model could prove to be an important empirical base for the treatment of fears and anxieties.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • English Abstract

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Anxiety*
  • Attitude
  • Fear*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagination
  • Male
  • Photoperiod*
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult