Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Children's Health

Font Size

Genes Drive Kids' Changing Fears

Child Fears Change Over Years as Genes Shift Gears

Child's Development, Environment Affect Fear Genes continued...

Kendler believes that what is true of normal fears is also true of the more intense, disabling fears known as phobias. That is, he feels the genetic influence on these disorders changes through childhood.

"Phobias represent an extreme where the fear is high and then it begins to either incapacitate or substantially interfere with life," he says. "I cannot say for certain the patterns we saw in this study extrapolate to phobias, but from other data I can say that the same factors that govern normal fears seem related to predisposing a person to having more phobic disorders."

Joanna Ball, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at New York's Montefiore Medical Center, works with fearful children. Kendler's findings are in line with her clinical experience.

"As kids get older, their ability to make sense of things matures," Ball tells WebMD. "Maybe they are frightened of thunder at age 8, but as they get older, they see people don't typically die in thunderstorms. So they can call on their experience when faced with thunder. But as they get older, they understand other frightening things and may develop fear of illness, fear of death, or even fear of money issues."

Genetic influences, Ball says, are just one of many factors that contributes to a child's fearfulness.

"Everyone is predisposed to a lot of things, but how that manifests depends on what environmental experiences you have and what developmental stage you are in," she says. "If you are prone to something, whether it is anxiety or phobia, a lot has to do with where you are developmentally and in terms of your environment."

Helping Children Deal With Fear

When children are afraid, just telling them to get over it doesn't help. But it also doesn't help to give in to a child's fear.

"Listen to the kids, let them express themselves. If they feel heard, it makes a big difference," Ball says. "But the more parents give in to the fear and make accommodations, it gives the fear more credibility. Parents come to me, and the kids are sleeping in the parents' bed, the parents are sleeping in the kid's bed, and the parents have so accommodated the fear it seems valid. Instead, help the kids produce evidence: Look under the bed with them, for example."

Today on WebMD

child with red rash on cheeks
What’s that rash?
plate of fruit and veggies
How healthy is your child’s diet?
smiling baby
Treating diarrhea, fever and more.
Middle school band practice
Understanding your child’s changing body.

worried kid
jennifer aniston
Measles virus
sick child

Child with adhd
rl with friends
Syringes and graph illustration