Accuracy of predicting a child's response to potential threat

A comparison of children and their mothers

Vanessa E. Cobham, Ronald M. Rapee*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Citations (Scopus)


Considerable research has indicated that children and their parents often demonstrate marked discrepancies in their reporting of anxiety-related phenomena. In such cases, the question arises as to whether children are capable of accurately reporting on their anxiety. In the present study, 50 children (aged 5 to 14 years) were asked to approach a large, German Shepherd dog. Prior to the task, both the mother and child independently predicted the closest point likely to be reached by the child and the degree of anxiety likely to be experienced. These predictions were then compared with the actual phenomena displayed by the child during the task. On the behavioural measure (closest step reached), both the child and mother demonstrated equivalent predictive accuracy. On the subjective measure (fear ratings) children were considerably more accurate than their mothers. The data were not influenced by gender, age, or clinical status. The results indicate the ability of children to accurately predict their anxious responses, and support the value of incorporating children's self-reports in the assessment of emotional disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-28
Number of pages4
JournalAustralian Journal of Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1999

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