Imagination causes fear

Psychiatry, Psychosomatics & Psychotherapy

Anxiety and standardized fears

All children are sometimes afraid or go through periods of fear, which at certain points in development must also be viewed as a natural process. Development-related fears usually accompany a time of change; they are then mostly caused by the fear-inducing effect of new perceptual stimuli, with a simultaneous lack of knowledge of real events and the underestimation of one's own coping options.

While fears in small children mainly relate to current events in the immediate vicinity, their ability to abstract as well as their ability to reflect on past events and to differentiate between fantasy and reality grow with age. Maturation-dependent or so-called physiological fears often disappear on their own when the child has passed through the developmental stage and has been able to get used to the new situation.


Age-usual fears in childhood and adolescence, which most children experience in varying degrees
0 - 6 monthsloud noises
6 - 9 monthsStrangers
9-12 monthsSeparation, injury
2nd year of lifeImaginary characters, death, burglars
3rd year of lifeAnimals (dogs), being alone
4th year of lifeDarkness
6 - 12 yearsSchool, injury, illness, social situations, thunderstorms
13-18 yearsInjury, illness, social situations, sexuality

Table modified from "Developmental Psychiatry", Herpertz-Dahlmann, Resch, Schulte Markwort, Warnke, Schattauer-Verlag 2003

Technical support: Prof. Dr. med. Johannes Hebebrand, Essen (DGKJP)