Is there such a thing as school phobia?
By Anthea Hollist
“any attempt to get them to school… can lead to quite extreme behaviour – temper tantrums, screaming, kicking. It is very distressing for the adults” –Nigel Blagg
School phobia – irrational far of school or the school situation
School refusal – refusal on the part of a child to attend school
– Taken from the BBC Website
The first time I read the question my first reaction was- ‘oh gosh is there no end to this psychological babble’ (it’s ok I did psychology and as a student who spent many nights trolling through psychological journals and books, I know both the supremely great stuff out there, and the stuff that is going to lead to me having another ‘debate’ over why psychologists are the root of all evils, thus I think that my reaction was valid). But after reading it, and putting on my psychologist hat, later swapping it with my sociologist cap and then common sense hat I was able to view the question with a rational and open mind.
At one point I am against the construction of the term ‘social phobia’ because of the tendency for children to internalise (or even play up) to having the phobia to avoid going to school. While on the other hand I understand the desire and relief for parents to finally have a label to identify and define their child’s behaviour.
I however believe that the physical and psychological symptoms that are manifested as part of having this ‘phobia’ has been a part of the school experience for many years. Students may feel anxiety and panic due to being away from their parents for a long time/first time, fear of embarrassing themselves, fear of bullying or not making friends, fear of school work, or lack of ability. All these things have played a part in making students refuse to go to school, and/or inducing psychological/psychological reactions. However the truth is the vast majority of student will get over this. Whether then this is a phobia, or part of the growing up experience is questionable.
As for the definition of school phobia I do not believe that the fear is irrational but is linked to some aspect of schooling that they find problematic or distressing.
But if there is such thing as a school phobia, then the best way to handle it would not be to remove someone from school, but to identity the root of the fear and address it. The reason being that if the cause for distress is not uncovered now it may inhibit them in later life. Often social skills are picked up during these early years (11-14 and younger) and often those who are home schooled miss out on developing the skills needed to interact with others to the same degree as those who are in school full time (though this is not always the case). However it may also, instill a culture whereby anything which in later life causes distress can and should be abandoned.
Despite my rather cynical commentary I do believe that these symptoms do exist and can be very traumatic for parents and students. But I do not thinking labeling it as a phobia is the correct way of addressing the issue.
Entry filed under: Education & Children's Services.