Help Us Help Others:

Fears and phobias can come from a number of different sources. Most will be related to the subject in question, but general anxiety in the child’s life may translate into an increase in seemingly unrelated fears. Here are some of those anxiety provoking events that can leave children fearing their own shadow:

Common causes of childhood fears


The anxiety that comes from being more independent can make kids prone to fear. For example, fears about monsters often coincide with a child’s moving into their own bedroom or sleeping by themselves.

Moving to a new home

This is a major and sometimes traumatic event for children. It uproots the familiar environment and replaces it with a new and unknown one, which raises anxiety and often leads to new fears.

Birth of a new baby brother or sister

Different fears may emerge as a call for attention, but they can also be genuine. As a child grows anxious about this new attention-sucking little creature that inhabits the house, they’ll wonder about their new role in the family, and may grow fearful over other things in their life.

Start of school / a change in school

Both of these anxiety provoking events often coincide with the emergence of new fears and phobias in children. In addition to the stress that school can cause, other children may fill a child’s head with urban myths and other scary stories that lead to the emergence of new fears.


Divorce is one of the scariest traumas children go through. It vaporizes everything they ever thought of as stable and secure in their lives. It also results in a number of environmental changes and disruptions to normal routines. So it can be quite common for children enduring divorce to suddenly develop phobias or become fearful and anxious.

Parental abandonment / death

A parent’s death or abandonment is a top-tier trauma that leaves a child questioning everything they thought of as stable in life. With this insecurity often comes new phobias.

Remarriage/family transitions

Each family transition is stressful and can take 2 or more years to adjust to. New fears may emerge as a call for attention or because of the anxiety such transitions bring.

How & why children develop fears and phobias

In addition to the common triggers just mentioned, there are a few primary methods by which children acquire particular fears:

  1. Conditioning (watching others react in a fearful way)
  2. Transference (hearing things from others, true or false)
  3. Experience (Scary, painful or traumatic encounters in the past)
  4. Uncertainty, change, or a fear of the unknown (it’s often been said that fear is what happens in the gap between being exposed to something new and understanding how it works)
  5. Conflict

See also:

Help Us Help Others: