Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Davis

UC Davis Previously Published Works bannerUC Davis

Something scary is out there II: the interplay of        childhood experiences, relict sexual dinichism, and cross‑cultural differences in spatial fears

Published Web Location
The data associated with this publication are available at:

Children’s nighttime fear is hypothesized as a cognitive relict reflecting a long history of natural selection for anticipating thedirection of nighttime predatory attacks on the presumed human ancestor, Australopithecus afarensis, whose small-bodied females nesting in trees would have anticipated predatory attacks from below. Heavier males nesting on the ground wouldhave anticipated nighttime predatory attacks from their sides. Previous research on preschool children and adults supportsthis cognitive-relict hypothesis by showing developmental consistencies in their remembrances of the location of a “scarything” relative to their beds. The current study expands this research by investigating whether nighttime fear in childhood,including the effect of parental threats to behave, influenced adult spatial fears in different biotic and abiotic situations. A25-item questionnaire employing ordinal scales was given to 474 foreign-born Vietnamese and ethnic Chinese adults livingin the USA. Univariate analyses of adult remembrances of childhood indicated that females were more fearful of somethingscary below their beds than males. To examine the influence of childhood nighttime fear on adult fears, exploratory factor analyses supported three factors: (1) indeterminate agents, indicated something scary under the bed, the difficulty locatingunspecific threats, and the brief appearances of large apparitions; (2) environmental uncertainty, indicated by potential encounters with unseen animate threats; (3) predictable animals, as the relative comfort of viewing animals in zoo exhibits. Using structural equation modeling, the results suggest that childhood nighttime fear influenced only the latent variable,indeterminate agents, in both groups via the mediating variable, parental threats.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View