We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Department of Psychology


Publication details for Professor Charles Fernyhough

Laing, S. V., Fernyhough, C., Turner, M. & Freeston, M. H. (2009). Fear, worry, and ritualistic behavior in childhood: Developmental trends and interrelations. Infant and Child Development 18(4): 351-366.

Author(s) from Durham


Previous studies of childhood fear, worry, and ritualistic behaviour have been limited by restricted age ranges, narrow ranges of anxiety phenomena, non-comparable methodologies, and assessment of typical behaviour within a pathological context. Content and intensity of fear, worry, and ritualistic behaviour, and associations among these variables, were assessed through a semi-structured interview individually administered to 142 children aged 7–16 years. Common themes in the content of fear, worry, and ritualistic behaviour varied predictably with age. Intensity ratings for all three phenomena decreased with age, although this decline was only significant between 7 and 10 years. Levels were higher in girls than boys. Fear and worry were positively related, and the regular performance of rituals was related to anxiety across the age range. Worry was more strongly related than fear to engagement in ritualistic behaviour. We consider implications for the understanding of anxiety and ritualistic behaviour in typical and atypical development.