This study investigated whether close friends affect each other's fear responses (fear beliefs and avoidance) when they discuss fear-related issues together. Children (N = 242) aged 7–10 years were first presented with ambiguous and threatening information about two novel animals respectively, after which their fear responses towards each animal were assessed (T1). Next, dyads of close friends had a discussion about their feelings regarding the animals, and their fear responses were measured again (T2). Results showed that children influenced each other's cognitions following the discussion; from T1 to T2 their fear responses became more similar and close friends' fear responses at T1 significantly predicted children's fear responses at T2. Gender pair type predicted change in children's fear responses over time. Children in boy-boy pairs showed a significant increase in fear responses following the discussion; their fear level became more in line with that of other gender pairs at T2, while those in girl-girl pairs showed a significant decrease in their fear beliefs, at least when threatening information was given. Differences in anxiety level between close friends did not affect change in fear responses over time. Altogether, the results indicate that children may affect each other's fears.
- Close friends
- Peer influence