Does clown therapy really help anxious Children?

Posted on March 12, 2014

Hospitals can be strange, foreboding places for young children. One idea to help reduce their anxiety is to invite clowns onto the ward to foster an atmosphere of light-heartedness and safety. This may seem like a harmless intervention - certainly preferable to anti-anxiety medication - but does it really work?

Alberto Dionigi and his team studied 77 children (aged 2 to 12, including 41 boys) at an Italian hospital. The children were awaiting otolaryngological surgery. None of the children had a fear of clowns (coulrophobia).

Fifty-two of the children were allocated to the clown condition. In the waiting area before surgery, two clowns from the Clown Care Unit "I nasi rossi del dottor Jumba" of Cesena entertained these children, one child at a time, for about 30 minutes, using jokes, puppets, soap bubbles and magic. A control group of 25 children didn't get to enjoy the clowns. A psychologist scored an observational anxiety scale for the children in the waiting area, and then again in the pre-operating room. The parents also completed a self-scored measure of anxiety in the waiting area and in the pre-operating room.

The encouraging result is that children in the clown group were less anxious in the pre-operating room after seeing the clowns, as compared with in the waiting area before they saw the clowns.

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Category(s):Anxiety, Child and/or Adolescent Issues

Source material from British Psychological Society