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Genetic and Familial Factors of specific phobias

Genetic and Familial Factors
First-degree relatives of people with specific phobias are more likely themselves to have a specific phobia providing evidence for the importance of either genetic or environmental family factors in the disorder. More specifically, a few twin studies demonstrated a genetic involvement in specific phobias but the importance of environmental factors was also shown by these studies.
The nature of the genetic influence has not been demonstrated, and it is likely that some of the genetic involvement is mediated via the general neurotic aspects of other anxiety disorders. However, some authors have argued for the possibility that specific phobias represent the emergence of specific, innate fears. The fact that certain normal fears emerge innately at specific periods of developmental history has been clearly demonstrated. Therefore, it has been suggested that some individuals simply have a greater degree of these innate fears constitutionally or that normal fears are not extinguished for certain reasons. Evidence for this approach has come from interview studies of adults and children with specific phobias in which a majority of subjects reported having the phobia for as long as they could remember, but these reports have been criticized by many as reflecting overly narrow views of associative learning. Environmental Factors.Since the demonstration by Watson and Rayner that a fear of white, furry objects could be produced in a child, conditioning theories of phobias have abounded.
More specifically, it has been suggested that phobic concerns could be acquired through three basic methods: verbal information, vicarious learning, and direct conditioning. Support for this suggestion has come from studies that asked specific phobics to state retrospectively what they consider the cause of their disorder. Most of these studies find a large proportion of subjects reporting that their phobias began suddenly following a conditioning episode (including an unexpected burst of fear), whereas a smaller proportion report seeing a traumatic event or hearing about the dangers of the object or situation.
However, some authors pointed out that the method of collecting these data has often been flawed because subjects are forced into one response and are often not given the opportunity to state that they have always had the fear. Studies in which this alternative was given to subjects showed a considerably smaller number reporting acquisition via the three main pathways, although these studies are subject to the strong criticisms alluded to before.

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