Fears vs Age

By: Simin Bhayani and Gracie Blackwell

An investigation of how fears change with age


To measure whether common fears change with age, and if so, how.


How do fears change with age?


A phobia is a fear to a person. Children have fears starting from a very young age. As children grow up and develop into adults, their fears dwindle. Some variables that can generate fear are sudden changes, unpredictability and illnesses. Children can inherit certain fears from other family members. Some adults discipline their children about fears that they haven’t even come across from their words or actions. Research shows that children who have phobias at a very young age flourish into normal adults. In the US, phobias are the most common mental disorder. Phobias can impact people’s lives in a serious way. Most phobias are developed from childhood but some can also develop from adulthood. There are many common fears that people have such as a fear of spiders (arachnophobia), fear of flying (aerophobia), fear of public speaking (glossophobia), and fear of heights (acrophobia). There are many physical signs that can be detected for a phobia. There are also many emotional signs that can be detected for a phobia like a feeling of overwhelming panic. There are four common types of fears: animal phobias (spiders, snakes), natural environment phobias (heights, storms, water), situational phobias (enclosed spaces, flying, driving), and blood-injection-injury phobias (blood, injury, needles, medical procedures). All human beings have anxiety, which is a distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune. It will help with alertness, learning and general performance but in remainder, it begins to work against individuals as extreme self- focus and it reduces the attention and performance. Some intense fears are quite a natural developmental stage and will ease pretty naturally. Some common fears for children ages 2-4 are fears of animals, being left alone, potty training, baths, bedtime, monsters and ghosts, wetting the bed, injury, and death. Common fears for children ages 4-6 are fear of darkness and imaginary creatures, animals, strangers, loss of a parent, death, injury, and divorce. For children ages 9-11, some common fears are fear of school, fear of blood, and injury. Children 12-13 years of age commonly fear kidnapping, being alone in the dark, and injections. Kids 14-16 years of age most commonly fear heights, terrorism, plane or car crashes, drug use, sexual relations, school performances, crowds, gossip, and divorce. Children older than this tend to worry more about death and related topics, such as nuclear war. Boys and girls tend to be equally represented in the fear tabled. After age 11, boys lose their fears more quickly than girls. The most common adult fears are public speaking, making mistakes, failure, disapproval, rejection, angry people, being alone, dentists, injections darkness, hospitals, and taking tests. Most adult fears are caused by childhood trauma and severe family or school problems. Children usually have different types of fears at different stages of their development. People can also develop fears from a traumatic experience they had to endure.


If people are older, then they will have different fears than younger people because they may have experienced a traumatic event that terrified them.


    1. 100 surveys
    2. 100 subjects; 50 teenagers and 50 adults
    3. A computer with a spreadsheet program
    4. Logbook
    5. Writing utensil


    1. Make and print survey asking about different types of fears
    2. Ask 100 people of different age groups to take the survey, which is anonymous. Just their age and gender is needed.
    3. After all of the surveys are taken, use a spreadsheet program on a computer to analyze the experiment
    4. Using the program, count up the amount of responses for each question.
    5. Compare the results between the age groups
    6. Enter the calculations into the logbook.


    1. Dependent Variable - Fear
    2. Independent Variable - Age
    3. Control - Same type of questions for each survey, same survey for each person
    4. Experimental Group - 100 test subjects; 50 teenagers and 50 adults
    5. Factors held constant - Questions, survey


    1. Several people are afraid of bugs or drowning.
    2. Many of the subjects were females.
    3. Lots of adults are afraid of heights and death.
    4. Many people who are afraid of bugs are not afraid of creepy crawlies.
    5. Several of the other fears that people listed had to do with the water or ocean.
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15+13+14+16+15+14+16+15+15+14+14+15+14+14+14+14+14+15+15+14+14+14+14+14+15+15+15+15+15+14+14+14+15+14+14+15+15+15+15+15+14+15+14+14+14+14+15/2=14.78 which rounds to 15 and is the average age for the teenager’s we surveyed

27+21+20+22+21+24+25+23+24+29+30+29+28+21+23+22+25+27+26+26+27+28+29+30+22++22+23+25+29+29+21+27+21+20+25+24+25+21+28+29+21+24+22+26+27+21+29+28+21+22+27+25=24.78 rounding to 25 and is the average age for the adult’s we surveyed

Number of Teen’s Fear of Failure

Tallies: 11111

Number of Teen’s Fear of Heights

Tallies: 1111111111111111111

Number of Teen’s Fear of Dying/Drowning

Tallies: 1111111111111111

Number of Teen’s Fear of Spiders/Bugs

Tallies: 11111111111111111111111111111111

Number of Teen’s Fear of Loneliness

Tallies: 111111111111111111111

Number of Teen’s Fear of Roller Coasters

Tallies: 1111111111111111111

Number of Adult’s Fear of Heights

Tallies: 1111111111111111111111

Number of Adult’s Fear of Losing a Child/Family Member

Tallies: 11111111111111111

Number of Adult’s Fear of Debt

Tallies: 1111111111111111111111111

Number of Adult’s Fear of Rejection/Never Finding Love

Tallies: 111111111

Number of Adult’s Fear of Job Interviews

Tallies: 1111111

Number of Adult’s Fear of Flying

Tallies: 1111111111111111

Number of Adult’s Fear of Confined Spaces

Tallies: 1111111111111111111

Statistical Analysis

The t-test results show the statistics of the teenager’s fears and the statistics of adult’s fears we surveyed. They are the amount of each fear each teen or adult voted on. Here are our results for the t-test:

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We observed that teenagers had very different fears than adults.


All of the most common fears teenager’s picked are different than the most common fears adult’s picked except for one fear. The most common fears for the teenagers are dying/drowning, failure, heights, spiders/bugs, loneliness, and roller coasters. The most common fears for the adults are heights, losing a child/family member, debt, rejection/never finding love, job interviews, flying, and confined spaces. The only one that is the same is heights which is overall feared from people of all ages. Dying/drowning in the teenager’s survey got 16 votes, failure got 5, heights got 19, spiders/bugs got 32 votes, loneliness got 21 votes, and roller coasters got 19 votes. For the adult’s survey, heights got 22 votes, losing a child/family member got 17 votes, debt got 25 votes, rejection/never finding love got 9 votes, job interviews got 7 votes, flying got 16, and confined spaces got 19. There are big differences in the popular fears in the ages.


In our previous research, it has been said that teens and kids are scared of roller coasters, failure (getting a bad grade), bugs, dying and drowning, and loneliness. Our results showed up with all of those fears as our most popular fears in the teenage age region. The reason for these certain fears that this age is because what has been told to them when they were children sticks with them throughout their teen years. From what we have researched, teens are afraid of dying and drowning because they do not want to die at that age. They are too young to die. Failure is one too because of the pressures of parents telling them they need to get good grades which means they are scared of failing. Everything that they are scared of is because of what they have seen or been raised like. For adults, in our research, it has said adults are scared of flying, debt, rejection/never finding love, losing a child/family member, job interviews, and confined spaces. From what we have gathered, a common fear for adults is flying because of not wanting to be in the air and some are not used to it. Debt is a big one for adults because they are the people supporting their families and supporting themselves. Adults do not want to be homeless and die of starvation. Rejection/never finding love is another common fear with adults because that age range is the time most adults marry and find love. Some adults are scared of never being able to find love and never being able to have any kids and being lonely. Adults fear losing a child/family member because they are related to each other and adults are the ones that have kids. Job interviews is another fear which adults have because they fear of not getting a job and how the person will judge them.


The hypothesis was that if people are older, then they will have different fears than younger people because they may have experienced a traumatic event that terrified them. Our hypothesis was correct because the teenagers had different fears from the adults. The adults had problems having more to do with death and money, while the teenagers’ problems were more about heights and bugs.

Sources of Error and Inaccuracies

A source of error that could be possible in this experiment are the averages in the table and graph. We could have miscalculated and messed up the average. Adding an extra number or leaving a number out could have also messed up the average.


Our experiment applies to the real world because we are testing people or different ages to see what they are afraid of. Men, women, and teens of different ages took our survey about what they were afraid of in life. Everybody in life is afraid of something, and when they took our survey, we got a glimpse of what. Drowning and bugs were the most common fears amongst children, and heights and death were the most common fears amongst adults. People can use our results by coming together and helping each other out. Instead of facing their fears alone, people can come together and assist others. It’s important to know our results because it will help people face their fears if they see that they aren’t alone in what they are afraid of. It can also be helpful to scientist because if they see what several people are afraid of the most, they can come up with something to help lessen or get rid of the fear.


We could improve our experiment by surveying more people. Instead of having just a few teenagers and adults take the survey, we could go around, asking as many people as we can to take the survey. We would be able to get more accurate results that way. To do a continuation of this experiment in the future, we could add gender. This would help us see what gender is afraid of something the most. We could also expand the gap between ages. Instead of doing teenagers and adults between the ages of 20 and 30, we could do elementary kids and adults older than 45. This would help us see how the fears progress as people get older.