Animal fears are common, emerging in early childhood and often continuing into adulthood. This study explores the outcomes of positive and negative storybooks about animals on children’s attitudes and behaviors. Ninety-six children (ages 4–8 years) were exposed to either negative or positive information about two animals (snakes and frogs) via age-appropriate storybooks, and fear beliefs and avoidance behaviors were then measured. Our results suggest that prior knowledge influences learning and behavior, with children exhibiting more fear towards snakes than frogs, regardless of condition. Accordingly, children who showed fewer fear beliefs were more likely to reach for the animals. In addition, storybook information impacts learning and fear, with children exhibiting more fear in the negative storybook conditions than positive storybook conditions. Storybook information also influenced behavioral avoidance, especially for snakes, with more children reaching for the snake when they received positive information rather than negative information. Additionally, across negative conditions, more children reached for the frog compared to the snake. Finally, parental and child characteristics were associated with more both self-reported fear and observed fear. Implications for parents and educators are discussed.
Conrad, Megan; Hassabelnaby, Raghad; Marcovitch, Stuart; and Boseovski, Janet
"Scary Snakes and Cuddly Frogs: Exploring the Role of Storybooks in Children’s Fear and Behavioral Avoidance of Animals,"
Merrill-Palmer Quarterly: Vol. 69:
1, Article 3.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/mpq/vol69/iss1/3