Stranger Anxiety Facts That Might Surprise You

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It’s normal for babies to feel scared around strangers, especially when it’s an unfamiliar person or place. It can be surprising, however, how intense this fear can be! Babies often scream, cry, and cling to their parents in the presence of strangers, even if they’re happy and healthy at home with their parents. Here are some stranger anxiety facts that might surprise you about the developmental stages of stranger anxiety in toddlers and preschoolers. And how you can ease your child through them.

What Is Stranger Anxiety?

Although babies are typically social beings, they have a fear of unfamiliar people. Stranger anxiety is also known as stranger fear or stranger-related social phobia. It’s normal for children to be wary of strangers, but sometimes stranger anxiety can be extreme, resulting in tantrums and other behavioral issues. In most cases, stranger anxiety goes away on its own. In severe cases where it persists into early childhood or even adulthood, your child may need additional support from a therapist or psychologist. Read more about what causes kids to develop stranger anxiety and how you can help your child cope with their fears.

Why Does It Happen?

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Studies suggest that stranger anxiety occurs in part because babies can tell us apart. Even though your baby may not recognize you as their mother yet, he’s able to distinguish among people with different personalities and characteristics. When you go to pick him up at daycare, for example, he might cry at first because it’s not you. He’ll start warming up once he figures out it’s Mommy, not someone else. Your child will better understand who a friend is versus a stranger between ages 2 and 6. During these years, ask your child many questions about other kids she meets while out in public, such as where they live or what they like to do.

When Does It Occur?

Although stranger anxiety usually sets in around 12 months, it can begin as early as six months of age. It typically fades by about 18 to 24 months of age, though some children may show signs of stranger anxiety even later than that. A child who hasn’t overcome stranger anxiety is considered fearful of strangers and will likely have difficulty forming relationships outside her immediate family.

Who Has Higher Levels Of Stranger Anxieties?

As a child grows up, they will usually develop more of an ability to deal with strangers. However, sometimes a person might have more of an anxiety issue with strangers than others. Females tend to be more nervous around strangers than males. Children who are typically shy or aren’t very expressive often have higher levels of stranger anxiety. In some cases, it can be hereditary or even based on experiences from when they were younger.

What Are Some Precautions To Take?

While parents often dismiss stranger anxiety in their children as a normal stage of development, it can be troubling for families since children experiencing fear around strangers are less likely to socialize. Fortunately, there are ways to treat stranger anxiety. Psychotherapy is effective in helping kids understand what’s causing their fear and practice interacting with new people under less stressful conditions. A trained counselor will also help your child learn coping mechanisms that can help them better navigate challenging situations later.


Babies are born with an inherent fear of strangers, but it’s important to note that infants aren’t born afraid of other babies. And while young children do exhibit some fear when meeting new people, they can gradually learn to overcome their stranger anxiety with positive social experiences. This process often happens in small steps over time, so keep exposing your little one to different people and settings. As she gets older, she will likely begin responding positively—and maybe even reaching out herself!

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