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01-12-2012 | Uitgave 4/2012

Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment 4/2012

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wind? Origins of Severe Weather Phobia

Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment > Uitgave 4/2012
Margo C. Watt, Samantha L. DiFrancescantonio


Natural Environment phobia include fears cued by events such as severe weather. Given the limited research in this area, the present study sought to assess the prevalence and learning history origins of these fears, as well as their relation to anxiety sensitivity (AS). Study One participants included 533 (66%F) undergraduates who completed the Weather Experiences Questionnaire. Overall, 42 % reported exposure to a severe weather event (e.g., hurricanes); 16 % reported high- and 44 % low-fear about weather. Thirty-three from each group participated in Study Two, wherein one high-fear participant approximated the diagnostic criteria for severe weather phobia. High-fear participants cited direct conditioning (43 %) followed by vicarious conditioning (39 %) as the most common learning pathways. The remaining18% could not recall the source of their fear and none identified operant conditioning. One-third cited mothers (versus 8 % fathers) as sharing similar fears. Most had not witnessed parents hurt, frightened, or distressed by severe weather but claimed parents had warned them about severe weather. High- (vs. low-) fear participants revealed more AS-somatic versus AS-cognitive or AS-social concerns. The importance of such research in light of the increasing frequency of severe weather events is discussed.

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