Self-reported fears of American, British and Dutch university students: A cross-national comparative study

Willem A. Arrindell, Mary J. Pickersgill, K. Robert Bridges, Luke D. Kartsounis, John Mervyn-Smith, Jan van der Ende, Robbert Sanderman

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22 Scopus citations


Studies specifically addressing self-reported fears cross-culturally have been scanty, and the few that have been conducted were seriously flawed methodologically. The present study set out to investigate this matter by comparing convenience samples of Ss from Great Britain, the Netherlands and the U.S.A. on a multi-scale robust measure of fear (the Fear Survey Schedule or FSS). Previously reported cross-national studies of neuroticism for the national groups considered here (Hofstede, 1976, 1980) found a mean score for the Netherlands which was higher than that for either Great Britain or the U.S.A., while the latter two nations had virtually identical scores. On the basis of this finding, and the empirical observation that neuroticism is meaningfully associated with phobic anxiety, it was hypothesised that at least some of the scales of the FSS would parallel the Hofstede pattern of neuroticism findings [(I) Social Fears, (II) Agoraphobic Fears, (III) Bodily Injury, Death and Illness Fears, (IV) Fears of Sexual and Aggressive Scenes, and (V) Fears of Harmless Animals]. However, the Dutch scored significantly lower than both their American and British counterparts on all measures, the most sizeable differences being the British Ss' higher scores on Fears of Sexual and Aggressive Scenes and on Agoraphobic Fears. The American and the British samples were comparable to each other in some respects (especially regarding social fears and fears of bodily injury, death and illness), while differing in other respects, in particular in the more pronounced fears of sexual and aggressive scenes in the British Ss. It was argued that these national differences may have emerged, at least in part, from national differences in higher-order conceptual (cognitive) strategies, a matter which remains to be empirically examined. Among other things, the need for nation-specific descriptive statistics and for specialised norms was emphasised.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-245
Number of pages39
JournalAdvances in Behaviour Research and Therapy
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1987

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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