Fear of Clowns: An investigation into the prevalence of coulrophobia in an international sample

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Although clowns have traditionally been portrayed as figures of fun in popular culture, more recent representations have been of fear-inducing characters such as “Pennywise” from the book and movie “IT”. However, it is not known whether these representations reflect fear of clowns within the general population, and there is a lack of data on the extent of this phenomenon. This study investigated the prevalence of clown fear in an international population, and the severity of this fear in those who reported it. The Fear of Clowns Questionnaire (FCQ), was designed for this purpose. Psychometric data indicated high levels of reliability for our new scale, with a Cronbach's alpha of 0.980, and a split-half reliability coefficient of 0.973. Demographic factors associated with clown fear were also explored; gender, age and country of birth. An opportunist sample of 987 participants were surveyed, consisting of 790 females and 197 males, aged between 18 and 77 years (M = 29.79; SD = 11.08). Of these, 272 (27.6%) reported a fear of clowns, whilst 50 (5.1%) rated this fear as extreme. A higher prevalence of clown fear was found for females compared to males (29.6 vs. 19.3%) and with a higher severity according to the FCQ. Age was negatively correlated with clown fear, and participants from the Asian continent exhibited the highest frequency of clown fear. We conclude that fear of clowns is common in the general population, although extreme fear has a similar incidence to that of other specific phobias.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-99
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Mental Health
Issue number1
Early online date14 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2022


  • Health Policy
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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