A Review of “Fear factors: Cross validation of specific phobia domains in a community-based sample of African American adults”


The current study furthers understanding of specific phobias within the African-American population, addressing a gap in the literature regarding specific phobias among ethnic minorities. This study set out to cross-validate prior findings regarding domains of fear in specific phobia with African-Americans by examining community dwelling individuals rather than college students. Overall, this study found similarities and differences between the community dwelling and college student African-American samples in the specific fear domains reported. This research is explored in the context of expanding knowledge of phobias and anxiety among African-Americans. Read below to learn more about this study (Chapman, Vines, & Petrie, 2011).


What were the goals of this study?

Specific phobias affect as many as 8.7% of the population in a given year (KESSLER 2005) yet are not well understood among minority groups. Prior work by Chapman and colleagues (CITE) examined specific phobias among African-American college students who reported specific fears in the animal, social anxiety, and natural environment domains. The current study aimed to cross-validate these findings within a community sample of African-Americans to help determine how well these specific fear domains generalize from a college sample across an adult African-American sample.

How did this study address these goals?

The current study recruited adults from the community as part of a larger study of parent-child relationships. This sample included mostly women (91%) who were 25 to 55 years old. Participants completed the Fear Survey Schedule-II (FSS-II), which is a reliable measure of specific phobia fear domains often used in research. The FSS-II includes 51 items tapping specific phobia types referenced in the DSM-IV (i.e., animal, blood-injection-injury, natural environment, situational, social anxiety, other). Data were analyzed primarily using confirmatory factor analysis methods.

What were the main results of this study?

Overall, this study found that community dwelling African-American adults endorsed fears in the areas of animal type and social anxiety type specific phobias. Prior research found that African-American college students endorsed fears of animal, social anxiety, and natural environment specific phobia types. Therefore, the current research highlights that both college student and community African-American samples endorsed high fears surrounding animal and social anxiety domains, whereas only the college student sample endorsed high fear related to natural environments. Also noteworthy, the community sample reported less fear related to each particular fear domain endorsed than by the college sample. Furthermore, the animal and social anxiety fears endorsed by both samples showed great similarity. For example, both groups reported high animal fears of strange dogs, snakes, spiders, and rats and mice and high social anxiety fears of not being a success, being self-conscious, being criticized, and looking foolish.

What are the clinical implications of this study?

This study reinforces the importance of considering cultural factors when working with individuals with specific phobias, such as social phobia. However, as these authors emphasize, researchers and clinicians should consider more factors relating to specific phobias among African-Americans than is captured in the findings of this study, which were based on self-report of fear domains only. For example, professionals should consider individual level differences when conceptualizing how specific fears present, such as the influence of racial identity and acculturation.

Where can professionals learn more about this study?

The introduction to the study discussed here is available at this link:


Chapman, L. K., Vines, L., & Petrie, J. (2011). Fear factors: Cross-validation of specific phobia domains in a community-based sample of African American adults. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 25, 539-544.

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