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Fear of children

Abstract

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

Etymology

The word "pedophobia" comes from the Greek roots παιδ- "paid-" "child" and φόβος "-phóbos" "fear".

Scientific analysis

The fear of children has been diagnosed and treated by psychiatrists, with studies examining the effects of multiple forms of treatment. 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. More than one study has identified the fear of children as a factor affecting biological conception in humans.

Popular perception

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 perpetuate paedophobia.

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".

Causes

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." A separate report suggests that the source of current trends in the fear of children have a specific source, namely,

Addressing the issue

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.

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 and horror films.

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