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Why Kids Hate Clowns: 20 Good Reasons

By joslyngray |

A 2008 study showed that children pretty much universally hate clowns. Honestly, most of the adults I know aren’t huge fans, either. So when Yahoo! Shine recently asked, “why do kids hate clowns?” all I could think was, “how is that even a question?” The real burning question here is, is there anyone who actually likes clowns? They’re freaking hideous.

The only upside to my clown phobia (scientific name: coulrophobia) is that it’s a nice bonding experience with my six-year-old son, who hates clowns as much as I do. His fear is made even more extreme by certain aspects of his autism, which make it difficult for him to understand that the clown is only a regular person in make-up. I try to explain it, and he just looks at me doubtfully, as if to say, “why would any regular person possibly want to look like this?”

An added problem for my son is that clowns often have balloons with them, otherwise known as Balloons of Doom, another fear of my son’s. Balloons are unpredictable; they make horribly loud sounds when you least expect it. Clowns, likewise, seem unpredictable to my son: the squirting flowers, the large motions, the the horror of the bicycle horn. There’s just way too much sensory input going on there, and the blurring of the line between reality and fantasy is not helping.

But fear of clowns is certainly not an autism thing. Alex Anderson, a Fort Collins, Colo. counselor, told Yahoo! Shine that popular culture has a lot to do with instilling a fear of clowns. And that fear — from a movie, say, 30 years ago (Poltergeist, anyone?) — can be passed from parent to child. So if you’re freaked out, your kid likely is, too. (See Strange Childhood Phobias: Is Your Child’s Fear Normal? for more on childhood fears.)

Anderson adds that the whole clown persona, from the makeup face to the outlandish costumes, can raise kids’ defenses.

“It’s the unknown,” he says. “They don’t know who’s behind the makeup, and kids are taught to be wary of strangers.”

Uh, not to mention the freakishly large feet. Those are not helping the situation.

Anderson advises that your best bet in beating your kid’s clown phobia is small exposures, leading up to personal interactions. Frankly, my son has bigger fish to fry in the therapy department than getting over a fear of clowns. But for me? I’ve gotten through 38 years successfully avoiding clowns, but perhaps it’s time for some “small exposures.”

Let’s start with these images: 20 excellent reasons everyone can hate clowns. Feel free to share your own personal reasons for hating clowns in the comments! And if you’re that one person who actually likes them, please explain why. Do you have some kind of gene mutation that makes you fearless? I’m jealous.

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Why Do Kids Hate Clowns? Here's 20 Good Reasons

The clown toy from 'Poltergeist'

Carol Ann's clown doll is pretty much the origin of my clown fear. I'm not saying I was the biggest fan of clowns before that, but after seeing Poltergeist, it was all over. Oddly enough, Poltergeist didn't make me afraid of TV.
(Photo Credit: It's A Sickness)

Read more from Joslyn at her blog stark. raving. mad. mommy. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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About joslyngray



Joslyn Gray is the mother of four children with a variety of challenges ranging from allergies to ADHD to Asperger Syndrome. She writes candidly and comedically about this and her generally hectic life on her light-hearted personal blog, stark. raving. mad. mommy.. Read bio and latest posts → Read joslyngray's latest posts →

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20 thoughts on “Why Kids Hate Clowns: 20 Good Reasons

  1. The Domestic Goddess says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one that finds them creepy.I’ve rarely met a small child who didn’t run the other direction and scream at first sight.

  2. Christy says:

    This pretty much sums up everything I have been telling people for years!! The only thing missing on your list is Bozo the Clown – I always knew he was hiding something in that hair

  3. Nicole says:

    This is easily the scariest post I’ve read on strollerderby.

  4. Tina says:

    Nope. Not even going to scroll through the photos. Nope, not happening.

    Now, I *will* say….I like the Shriners when they dress as clowns in local parades. They are entertaining. But yes, media made me not like clowns for the most part.

  5. Emily says:

    I am, oddly enough, not anti-clown. I’m anti-BAD-clown. There are many miserable jerks who think that face paint and a bicycle horn will make them entertaining and worth money, even though they don’t really get along well with kids or have any performance skills to speak of. These are the (pun intended) bozos who ruin it for honest-to-god performers who work hard to do what they do, and do it well. Most of the best clowns in the business do NOT wear the Scary Clown Makeup, probably in large part *because* it’s been overly adopted by the people who give them a bad name. In a hack’s mind a jolly outfit and face paint = job complete. For a couple of clowns that you might not hate, check out a duo called Gamarjobat, who do their incredible act in shark-skin suits and mohawks. No bicycle horns in sight.

  6. AV says:

    haha – I am CRYING from your comments under the photos.
    I am beyond terrified of clowns. I’m 30yrs old and cant even physically be in the same vicinity as a clown (if there is a clown at a party, I leave…seriously). I’m sure I will also imbed my intense, mildly irrational fear of clowns in my daughter as well. Oh, and dolls too. Then you combine the 2 into CLOWN DOLLS…pure evil.

  7. Tim Walsh says:

    I am a game inventor with an “anti-clown” game coming out. I’ve always hated clowns. They’re so UNfunny. Pro-clown people say clowns have exaggerated makeup and large clothing so that they can be seen easily from great distances by circus crowds. That’s the problem. We were never meant to be close to them. Keep your distance, Clown! My game is NØ CLOWNS! Coming this fall. Join the fight on our facebook page if you’re so inclined. Great post.

  8. Monica says:

    What studies exactly are you citing that kids are universally afraid of clowns? My kids aren’t afraid of clowns! Now granted that might have something to do with the fact that when they see a clown they know who it is behind the makeup. Why would an adult do it? Because clowns are fun, because it’s a way of living for some, because not all children are universally afraid of clowns as this mysterious study of yours states. Yes, I have had my fair share of fearful children when it comes to me in my costume, but it’s not all. I have had children follow me around. Some children run up to me to great me. It’s not a universal fear. I am so sick of these wild accusations that people make on Babble. I can guarantee you that movies like It have done nothing to help everyone love a clown. And any child who is fearful of me I take the chance to show them that underneath all the makeup is just a regular person. I have shown children my makeup before to help them understand what it is. There’s no reason for children to live in fear of clowns and I certainly don’t encourage my children to take on my fears. I don’t like snakes and my kids know that, but I stepped up and touched a snake at an event once because I want my children to learn to overcome their fears.

  9. joslyngray says:

    @Monica — There was a by the University of Sheffield in England in 2008, in which children aged 4 to 16 were asked what they thought of the idea of using clown imagery to decorate a hospital children’s ward. According to Dr. Penny Curtis, who helped conduct the study, “We found that clowns [were] universally disliked by children. Some found them quite frightening and unknowable.” (BBC’s report on that: Psychology Today says that of people with debilitating phobias, coulrophobia (fear of clowns) is one of the most common:

  10. Annie says:

    I’ve never actually seen a clown turn on anyone but when I see one, I know it’s in the near future. I think birthday invitations should have clown warnings on them so you’ll know if you should just stay home.

  11. stefanie says:

    i hate clowns an maggaction i have autism so the add ballons an not knowing ewhgat comes next is not fun the site of them is enough to give me a panic acttak

  12. Erin says:

    I like clowns, always have, even after reading It by Stephen King (I thought the book was so out of this world ridiculous that it was funny). I remember meeting the clowns from Barnum and Bailey’s Circus as a kid. I also went to MANY birthday parties at McDonalds and Ronald was always there and he handed out extra toys to all the party goers. My son who has autism was terrified the first time he saw the local clown around here, until I had explained (just like I had to about the Chick-fil-a cow) that it is a person under all that. The cow was awesome and lifted up his head to show himself to my son who had literally crawled up me and was sitting on my shoulder. Katy Mae the Clown (the local clown here) is a woman, super nice and friendly, doesn’t approach children that are flipping out. There is also another clown (Harmony) who is a woman that has a monkey, she typically will sit in a chair or on the floor with her monkey and let the kids approach her. Many kids that were scared of clowns have come to love her because of the monkey and that she is not an over the top character.

    I guess I am one of the lucky ones that wasn’t terrified at a young age by horrible clowns.

  13. amy says:

    the pretty princess pic has traumatized me! You will pay my dear! :)

  14. Juliet Jeske says:

    So I sometimes work as a clown. That’s right. A clown. But I usually don’t wear any clown makeup. The whole thing is something my ex-husband got me into. He is a clown. But has worked with every major circus in the United States and in multiple stages across the world including Austria, Germany, Spain, Italy and China. He also has two Drama Desk nominations for work that has been produced in New York. Clowning is an art form that is well respected in other parts of the world. Sadly in this country clowns are seen as something entirely different. Although Slava’s Snow Show did quite well here and it was 100% CLOWN. I am not sure how clowns became to be regarded as evil or scary. I rarely frighten anyone. But then again I usually don’t wear make up and my clown character is fairly mild. Have you ever tried to entertain a large group of children in a living room, and hold their focus for 45 minutes? You want to talk about scary? Before you make blanket statements about someone you should try to walk a mile in their shoes. Mine aren’t over-sized, they are red velvet Doc Martens boots. I don’t know you but I doubt you would last five minutes trying to entertain a large group of 4-6 year olds. I don’t think they would be entertained by blogging. But maybe they would, you never know.

  15. goldenheart says:

    I never feel comfortable being around clowns… another one you miss that clown from “Are you afraid of the Dark” Creepy!!

  16. hdgeuejdh says:

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  20. will says:

    I’m 23 and my fears go way back when i was 2, they just frightening the shit out of me!! but ill go with alot of people that you can’t see their faces and horror movies aswell.

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