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Fear of children, fear of infants or fear of childhood is alternatively called pedophobia, paedophobia (British English)[1] or pediaphobia.[2][3] Other age-focused fears are ephebiphobia and gerontophobia. Recognised outcomes of pedophobia include paternalism, adultism, and by extension, ageism.

Etymology[edit | edit source]

The word paediaphobia comes from the Greek words paidi (gr:παιδί) which means child and -phobia (gr:φοβία) which means fear.

Scientific analysis[edit | edit source]

The fear of children has been diagnosed and treated by psychiatrists, with studies examining the effects of multiple forms of treatment.[4] Sociologists have situated "contemporary fears about children and childhood", e.g. paedophobia, as "contributing to the ongoing social construction of childhood", suggesting that "generational power relations, in which children’s lives are bounded by adult surveillance" affect many aspects of society.[5] More than one study has identified the fear of children as a factor affecting biological conception in humans.[6][7]

Popular perception[edit | edit source]

Paedophobia is the raison d'etre for several international social justice movements addressing young people, including children's rights and youth participation. Major international organisations addressing paedophobia, either outright or by implication, include Save the Children and Children's Defense Fund. However, some organisations, particularly those associated with the youth rights movement, claim that these movements actually perpetuate paedophobia.[8]

The complicity of this notion is exacerbated by observations by experts such as Letty Cottin Pogrebin, a founding editor of Ms. magazine, who is said to have diagnosed America as having an "epidemic of paedophobia", saying that, "[t]hough most of us make exceptions for our own offspring, we do not seem particularly warm-hearted towards other peoples' children."[9]

Causes[edit | edit source]

One author suggests that the cause of the fear of children in academia specifically extends from adults' distinct awareness of the capacity of children as she wrote, "Children embarrass us because they point ever too cleverly and clearly to our denial of personal, material, and maternal history."[10] A separate report suggests that the source of current trends in the fear of children have a specific source, namely,

James Q. Wilson, a professor at UCLA‘s School of Management... back in 1975... helped inaugurate the current climate of paedophobia [when he said] 'a critical mass of younger persons... creates an explosive increase in the amount of crime.'[11]

Addressing the issue[edit | edit source]

As mentioned above, social service, human rights, and social justice organisations have been tackling the fear of children for dozens of years. The United Nations has created the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is implicitly designed to address paedophobia by fostering intergenerational equity between children and adults.[12]

As evidenced above, paedophobia is distinctly addressed by academic, especially evidenced since the creation of the field of Youth studies. The influence of the fear of children in American popular culture is examined by critical media analysts who have identified the effects of paedophobia in both Disney[13] and horror films.[14]

A wide range of other authors and scholars, including Henry Giroux,[15] Mike Males and Barbara Kingsolver,[16] have suggested that the popular modern fear of children actually stems from corporatisation of mass media and its complicity with a range of political and economic interests. Males perhaps goes the furthest, actually writing an entire book exploring the subject[17]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Lewis, Paul Fear of teenagers is growing in Britain, study warns. Guardian. URL accessed on 2 January 2011.
  2. Kring, A., Davison, G., et al. (2006) Abnormal Psychology Wiley.
  3. Djordjevic, S. (2004) Dictionary of Medicine: French-English with English-French Glossary. Schreiber Publishing, Inc.
  4. Schwartz, C., Houlihan, D., Krueger, K. F., Simon, D. A. (1997) "The Behavioral Treatment of a Young Adult with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a Fear of Children," Child & Family Behavior Therapy, 191, p37-49.
  5. Scott, S., Jackson, S., & Backett-milburnswings, K. (1998) "Swings and roundabouts: Risk anxiety and the everyday worlds of children," Sociology, 32 p. 689-705. Cambridge University Press.
  6. Kemeter, P. & Fiegl, J. (1998) "Adjusting to life when assisted conception fails," Human Reproduction. 134 p. 1099–1105.
  7. McDonald, R. (1968) "The Role of Emotional Factors in Obstetric Complications: A Review," Psychosomatic Medicine 30 p. 222-237. American Psychosomatic Society.
  8. Axon, K. (n.d.) The Anti-Child Bias of Children's Advocacy Groups Chicago, IL: Americans for a Society Free of Age Restrictions.
  9. L. Pogrebin, as cited in Zelizer, V. (1994) Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children Princeton University Press.
  10. Coiner, C. & George, D.H. (1998) The Family Track: Keeping Your Faculties while You Mentor, Nurture, Teach, and Serve University of Illinois Press.
  11. Murashige, M. (2001). The Future of Change: Youth Perspectives on Social Justice and Cross-Cultural Collaborative Action in Los Angeles. Los Angeles: MultiCultural Collaborative.
  12. Penn, J. (1999) London University Institute of Education.
  13. Giroux, H. (1999) The Mouse that Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
  14. Phillips, K. (2005) Projected Fears: Horror Films and American Culture. Praeger Publishers
  15. (n.d.) Reading List on Henry Giroux. The Freechild Project.
  16. Dudley-Marling, C., Jackson, J., & Patel, L. (2006) "Disrespecting Childhood, Phi Delta Kappan 8710 (June 2006).
  17. Males, M. (2001) Kids and Guns: How Politicians, Experts, and the Media Fabricate Fear of Youth. Common Courage Press.

Further reading[edit | edit source]

Look up paedophobia in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
  • Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys by Daniel J. Kindlon, Michael Thompson, et al.
  • Prout, R. (2001) Fear and Gendering: Pedophobia, Effeminophobia, and Hyermasculine Desire in the Work of Juan Goytisolo, 'Worlds of Change, 42.
  • Scharf, R. (2001) "Pedophobia, the gynarchy, and the androcracy," Journal of Psychohistory 28(3) (Winter 2001) p. 281-302.

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