Nighttime Fears and Fantasy–Reality Differentiation in Preschool Children

Tamar Zisenwine, Michal Kaplan, Jonathan Kushnir, Avi Sadeh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Nighttime fears are very common in preschool years. During these years, children's fantasy-reality differentiation undergoes significant development. Our study was aimed at exploring the links between nighttime fears and fantasy-reality differentiation in preschool children. Eighty children (aged: 4-6 years) suffering from severe nighttime fears were compared with 32 non-fearful controls. Fears were assessed using child and parental reports. Children viewed images depicting fantastic or real entities and situations, and were asked to report whether these were imaginary or could occur in real life. The results revealed that children with nighttime fears demonstrated more fantasy-reality confusion compared to their controls. These differences in fantasy-reality differentiation were more pronounced in younger children. Additional significant associations were found between fantasy-reality differentiation and age and specific characteristics of the stimuli. These preliminary findings, suggesting a developmental delay in fantasy-reality differentiation in children with nighttime fears, have significant theoretical and clinical implications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-199
Number of pages14
JournalChild Psychiatry and Human Development
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • Child
  • Fantasy
  • Nighttime fears
  • Preschool
  • Reality


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