1984, which became even scarier with the passing of the Patriot Act, and every store these days is full of security cameras, or the kinds of private information available to the people who run social networking sites, or that employers have figured out how to access said information.
By the Shores of Silver Lake, one of Laura Ingalls Wilder 's Little House books. Baby sister Grace gets lost on the prairie. To child readers, it's a somewhat tense scene. For grown-ups with children of their own, it's absolutely horrifying. Grace is found, in a perfect circle of violets. Laura is certain that it's a fairy ring, but grabs her little sister despite being creeped out. It turns out to be a buffalo wallow; the way buffalos roll in the dirt breaks up the prairie grass and aerates the soil perfectly to encourage the violets to grow.
The Impairment is set at a university which is at the center of a two year long streak of unsolved serial murders and it's grown so horrible most of the students have been reduced to crazy levels of paranoia and are desperate that they'd gladly see the freshman whom is the prime suspect (and of whom we're placed in the perspective of where we see not only is he innocent, but watched as the latest murder take place) take the fall if they can sleep easily.
The revelation that becomes apparent to Kyle when Bret Cameron makes it abundantly clear that the students are nothing more than inevitable collateral damage as his company, a supposed section of the Government that deals...with matters the public are better off not knowing about, and even when he concedes to Kyle's demands to help save students from the coming massacre, we the readers already understand that pretty much, it'll be at the best a very bittersweet victory as students will inevitably die.
In the first book of The Thrawn Trilogy, from the Star WarsExpanded Universe, Leia is pregnant. She spends some time brooding about whether the twins will turn out like her father, and whether evil skips a generation. More explicitly, Thrawn's Nohgri commandos pursue her all over the galaxy, seeking to capture her without the use of Stun Guns. Stun guns would make these things simpler, but they can induce miscarriage. Meaning that they want to catch her and her unborn children. No matter where she goes, the Nohgri find her, and her escapes get narrower each time. At one point she realizes that Chewbacca and her other defenders would probably be killed, but not her. She'd be taken before Grand Admiral Thrawn, who would smile, and speak politely, and take her children away.
When Leia has her third child, the reborn Emperor Palpatine chases after her and the baby so he can replace its soul and take over the infant's body. He doesn't want to kill the baby — he wants to replace it.
Coraline. For children, it has fairly standard Aesops about being careful what you wish for and being wary of strangers. For adults, it's about how failing to pay attention to a child can result in the child's kidnapping and death. Word of God states that this was intentional, and indeed, was Gaiman's primary reason for authoring the story — namely, scaring the pants off parents while leaving kids merely a little creeped out.
In the movie, it becomes a sobering moment for children (even teenagers) when Coraline can't find her parents. The first time staying alone in your house can be a scary thing. In Coraline's case, she doesn't know where her parents are, if they're even coming back, or what will happen to her. The scene with the pillows in the bed is both heartbreaking and oddly terrifying.
Occurs in, of all places, Goosebumps. Specifically the Night of the Living Dummy series. As several people, along with the blogger himself, pointed out on the snarky Goosebumps blog, the Night of the Living Dummy series may be creepy as a child, but as an adult, a completely different layer of creepy reveals itself. The living dummy in question is obsessed with making preteen girls (and it's always girls, never boys in these books) into his slaves. When they refuse, he punches and slaps them - a rare act of physical violence for this series - and knocks one girl unconscious. In Bride of the Living Dummy, he goes further, demanding a 12 year old girl as his bride (instead of the female dummy), and calling his violence against her a "love tap". From adult eyes, it takes on a whole new meaning that flew over our heads when we were kids, with some really disturbing subtext...
In the TV adaptation of Night of the Living Dummy III, it is shown that Slappy has demonically possessed or at least is using his powers on a young pre-teen boy. The effect is no less creepy than it was with the girls.
Stephen King draws on this a lot. The Shining, for example, deals with Jack Torrance's fear of hurting his wife and son, of failing as a writer, of becoming crazy and/or an alcoholic, etc.
The image for this trope comes from The Film of the Book of King's Pet Sematary which is, as heart, a prolonged riff on the very adult fear of the death of a child. In fact, what gives the book its emotional gut-punch is the knowledge that everything goes to hell just because Lewis Creed loves his little boy... a bit too much.
A Clockwork Orange: In addition to the aforementioned elements shared by the movie, the book features, among other things, a chapter in which Alex rapes a pair of young girls, and graphic descriptions of the World War II footage he is forced to watch as part of his "treatment".
Two Weeks with the Queen is told from the perspective of the young Colin, who takes a long time to understand what's going on. However, the focus on the book is still a very adult fear: living knowing you are going to lose your brother (Colin), your child (his parents), or your life partner (Ted).
The Harry Potter series, despite being aimed at children, has plenty of moments that scare the parents more than the kids, and a lot of them have to do with child abuse, Parental Abandonment, and not being able to protect or take care of your own children. Most of this probably came from Rowling's own fears as a mother (and especially as a single mother, having broken off an abusive marriage).
In the very beginning of Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsPart One, when Hermione has to erase all of her parents' memories of herself so Voldemort can't torture them for information. It gives a parent a sense of failure to protect their child, that they're weak and powerless.
It's very easy to see why Molly Weasley goes full Mama Bear during the Battle of Hogwarts. "Not my daughter, you BITCH!", indeed. After all, we saw her boggart in the fifth book — her family dead. She lost her two brothers in the last war, one of the Weasley twins has just died, and the daughter she so desperately wanted after having several sons is apparently the next one...
Fenrir Greyback. In the book he just manages to edge out Bellatrix in the bone-deep creepiness category. In the movie he's downright disturbing, especially with Hermione. This was entirely intentional on Rowling's part.
In the first part of the final film installment, Fenrir's part is downplayed... but they play up the character of Scabior, one of the snatchers. To children in the audience, Scabior is frightening because he's feral-looking, gross, cruel, and hunting down the main trio. To slightly older viewers, particularly women, he is... a lot more frightening because he's threatening to rape Hermione.
The flashbacks to the night Lily and James were killed. The two died in total fear, but doing their best to protect their infant son. In the end, they weren't able to hold back the guy who broke into their house at all. If it weren't for The Power of Love and Lily's Mama BearDying Moment of Awesome, they would have had no way to protect baby Harry at all.
When you're a kid, the scene in the first novel with Harry seeing his family in the mirror is interesting and sort of sad. When you're older it kind of makes you want to cry.
Xenophilius Lovegood is a whole lot more tragic in Deathly Hallows because of this. "They took my Luna, and I don't know if I'll get her back!" The poor guy nearly blows up his house trying to catch the trio, but not out of ill will towards them... but only so he can save his poor daughter from being imprisoned by Death Eaters.
Narcissa Malfoy's most prominent and sympathetic role in the story comes from her attempts to save Draco from the power of Voldemort. So much that she managed to lie to the face of Voldemort so Draco would live.
In the fourth book, Harry is trapped in a room with someone he thought he could trust, a teacher no less. Only for said person to try to murder him.
The entire plot of Order of the Phoenix is this trope: there's a catastrophe looming in the horizon but the government is too scared/incompetent to do anything about it so it just decides to pretend it doesn't exist, manipulate the media into discrediting those trying to warn people about it, send bureaucrats to force institutions to toe their line which has the side effect of leaving people less prepared for the catastrophe and finally just start arresting people who keep talking about it.
From Chamber of Secrets, imagine what Molly Weasley must have felt when, in the middle of the night, she found three of her sons gone, with no note or anything explaining where they went or why, and the family car gone as well. Granted, they did have a good reason for sneaking out, but her anger at them for doing so is completely justified.
Harry gets to see no less than two people he knows well get murdered before his very eyes: his Fire Forged Friend Cedric in Goblet of Fire and his mentor Dumbledore in The Half-Blood Prince. While the former was done by the Big Bad, the latter was by one of Harry's teachers, which made Harry so furious that he tried to assault him in revenge. Though, the latter is relieved a little because Dumbledore knew he was going to die sooner or later and actually asked Snape to deliver a Mercy Kill. Then again, being fated for a near-future death is an Adult Fear for the victim and those they know in and of itself.
In Terry Pratchett's Hogfather the entire reason the Boogeyman, the living embodiment of the "monster under the bed" type scare, became the Tooth Fairy was to protect children from real monsters like Teatime.
Even more so in Thud!. Sam Vimes has a son, and he's going to be home at six o'clock no matter what to read Where's My Cow? to Young Sam. He has nightmares about not making it. He also has nightmares about coming home to an empty crib because of the enemies a police chief makes. In this book, he makes some more.
Many of Bentley Little's novels deal with these sort of themes, including the nullification of personal identity (The Ignored) and the destructive power of consumerism (The Store).
The premise of The Lovely Bones is based on the worst possible outcome of the "Oh, shit. My kid was supposed to be home hours ago; what if they're dead?" fear.
The Anita Blake series has an example of this in the first book, Guilty Pleasures. Anita is hopping through, having a genuine Worthy Opponent moment with Jean-Claude, who can actually roll her, if briefly. Then she meets Nikolaos. Nikolaos doesn't try to convince Anita that she's seeing something she isn't. She tries to convince Anita that she is someone she isn't. And Anita is conscious enough to realize what's happening, but not quite enough to stop it on her own. It's a boogeyman doing bad things, yeah...it's also someone putting you in a position where even someone who was as calm as Anita was incapable of fighting back, and has no reason to expect help. Oh, and Nikolaos looks like a child, and was springing between innocent and B-Movie villain before that.
Battle Royale (and by extension, Survival of the Fittest and any other works based off of it). The plot revolves around a highschool class being sent on a deserted island and forced to kill each other. And there's nothing you could really do about it, as well; two of the adult characters protested against it in the book and manga, resulting in one getting brutally killed and the other getting raped to silence her. Yikes.
A Little Princess is about a young girl named Sarah who is forced into a life of servitude after her father dies and leaves her apparently penniless and with no other living relatives. And his closest and most trusted friend and business partner believes it's his fault that he supposedly lost the fortune and drove his friend to die. He wants to find his friend's daughter (Sarah) and take care of her because he feels he owes her father that much, and is worried for her safety. But he has no idea where she even is, or even if she's within the country! His search for her lasts years. It's even worse in Cuaron's movie version, where her father is alive and living next door, but due to his injuries and trauma he's suffering from memory loss. When Sarah is running from the police and hides in the house, she recognizes him and starts crying and trying to get him to remember her as she's dragged away to be arrested. He remembers her at the last minute, but still!
Although Joffrey Baratheon in A Song of Ice and Fire is one of the most hated characters in the series, his death in the books is uncomfortable for many parents because of the very realistic desperation and grief of his Smug Snake of a mother, Cersei, neatly triggering the fear of one's children dying and eliciting sympathy for both. In the following book she sees her son Tommen choke on a little wine at his wedding feast and nearly breaks down in tears as she relives Joffrey's death. For one horrifying moment she thought her second son had been poisoned as well.
How Catelyn's husband is executed, her oldest daughter is forcibly married to the enemy, her youngest daughter disappears off the face of the earth, her younger sons are killed and their bodies are hung from the wall of her castle (Which isn't true, but doesn't exactly help her situation), and it ends with her seeing her eldest son Robb being horrifyingly killed in front of her. And then she also gets killed off. No wonder she Came Back Wrong.
Poor Sansa is every brother/father-figure's worst nightmare of "What would happen to you if I'm gone?" After Ned gets executed in front of her, Sansa almost gets raped multiple times, is beaten and stripped in front of a court that's too terrified of Joffrey to help her, and nearly gets framed for treason after Joffrey gets poisoned. Luckily, she escapes the vast corruption of King's Landing... to the home of the man who openly pined for her mother, and Sansa is stated to look just like Catelyn. Luckily, her older brother Robb is going to save her from... oh fuck, did he and Catelyn just get killed at her uncle's wedding?
Arya Stark, Sansa's sister, becomes a different kind of Broken Bird, going from a Plucky Girl to verging on a socipathic killer, having a list of people she's planning on killing for both justice and Revenge that she recites every night and training to become one of the world's greatest assassins. She's about 11-12.
Another terrifying point is that the whole is Based on a True Story. It was a lightning in reality making it even more tragic. One minute that little girl is happily playing on a beach, the next there is a corpse...
In The Stones of Green Knowe, the protagonist, Roger, at one point sees what he thinks is his own village being massacred, with his family slaughtered. Despite the fact that Roger is only a child in the story, this would have been a very realistic fear for anyone at the time the novel takes place (the twelfth century), as well as in parts of the world today.
Die Wolke ("The Cloud") by Gudrun Pausewang describes what would happen to a country if a nuclear plant would go fully caboom.
Pausewang is very fond of this trope. Compare also: Die letzten Kinder von Schewenborn (The Last Children of Schewenborn), which describes the aftermath of an implied nuclear war with all its horrors (the protagonist's family save his father dies one after another while suicides, murders, radiation sickness and starvation deaths happen all around him), and Der Schlund (The Abyss), which is set in a Germany that falls pray to another fascist regime a la Third Reich. The protagonist here loses her entire family to the regime and essentially commits suicide-by-proxy at the end.
The Hunger Games centres around Katniss who takes on a motherly role for her young sister prematurely due to her father dying in a mining accident and her mother's ensuing depression. To feed the family she breaks the law and increases her odds of being picked for the deadly games. But because this is a Crapsack World, the sister is picked for the Games anyway, so Katniss volunteers as sacrifice, knowing she'll never win and her family will be left without a provider. Harrowing enough but then her younger sister dies in the revolution Katniss starts - likely at the hands of Katniss' best friend.
Just the thought of it being your kid chosen for the Deadly Game...
Outside of the Games themselves, there's the fear of mental illness making you unable to care for your children. Recovering, and knowing that your kids nearly starved to death while you watched and did nothing, knowing that your daughter doesn't even trust you anymore. The horrible guilt- and unlike the Games, it actually happens.
A torture method that takes your most treasured memories and poisons them, making you fear the people you used to love to the extent that you want them dead. Oh, and there's no known cure.
For Katniss herself this trope is a big part of forming her personality and her outlook on life. She doesn't ever want to fall in love because she's seen what it did to her mother to lose her father. She's even more adamant to never have children because they might get reaped. Even after the Games are over and the rule of Snow has been overthrown it takes fifteen years for her to get over that fear and start a family. She also spends a long time ignoring/denying her feelings for Peeta.
Three Days by Donna Jo Napoli focuses on an eleven-year-old girl visiting in Italy with her father. All is well until he suffers a heart attack while driving and passes out...and then the girl ends up being kidnapped. So now in addition to watching her father get a heart attack and probably die while they were driving and she was right next to him, she's trapped in a stranger's home, surrounded by people who don't speak any English, in a strange country that she doesn't even know her way around.
The Knight and Rogue Series has a woman who collects mentally handicapped children to experiment on, since the law is more likely to miss perfectly normal kids or adults.
Warrior Cats deals with this a couple times. The forest is dangerous, so it's always frightening to the characters when a young cat disappears... one mother has to deal with the fact that her daughter's hindlegs are paralyzed so she'll never live a normal life and might die early... another mother's kits go missing, and she's forced to realize that her mate may have kidnapped them to live with him.
Those That Wake had everyone forgetting about teenage Laura, even her parents. And at the end of the book, they still don't remember.
School Crossing, by Francis King, is about a child-hating headmaster bitter after being sacked from the school where he worked. Whenever he drives anywhere near the school, he begins seeing the ghosts of children on the crossing outside. After being told by a doctor that he is hallucinating and should drive at the ghosts to prove they're not real, he does - only to run over and kill several children. The "ghosts" were a premonition. This is a fear instantly understandable to anyone with kids or who drives anywhere near places where children gather. The author has stated that he began having nightmares about it after acquiring a large, powerful car that he found difficult to handle.
The doctor who gave him the advice presumably didn't handle the outcome very well, either.
House of Leaves has many scary things going on, most noticably the Nothing Is Scarier aspects. But perhaps the most insidious facet of the book's creepiness is the fact that these terrible things are all going on in a family home. And then the children start changing. And also the claustrophobia, and the steadily escalating insanity that's probably the only thing of these that's actually happening.
Fay Woolf's short stories "Slowly" (about a child being trapped beneath a fairground ride - engineers try to free him but then discover the machine sliced him into a pile of body parts, which rain down upon the rescuers) and "Sideshow" (about a boy suffocating to death during a party game at a school fair.) The events of both stories are described in such a way as to hold off the full horror until the end, and they are reasonably unlikely to happen - but still perfectly plausible and possible. Not fun for any parents reading.
Słony from Kroniki Drugiego Kręgu has to hide his daughter on a remote island — and be very careful with any visitor he has — in order to keep her safe from an organization that would otherwise kidnap and experiment upon her. The organization finds out anyway and forces him to spy on a bunch of people or they will kidnap, rape, and force her to give birth to children they will further experiment on. No wonder the guy spends his night obsessively checking if all of his children are alive in their beds.
Galaxy of Fear mostly serves up Goosebumps-style horrors, but not entirely. Tash and Zak Arranda are kid survivors of Alderaan and lost everyone there. In Eaten Alive Tash is shown to have some degree of separation anxiety/abandonment issues, half believing that if she's parted from her one surviving family member, he'll die too. After Alderaan she sank in despair, only deciding to engage with the world because her brother was there and needed someone to watch his back. The book skims over her reaction to everyone, including Zak, disappearing later. City of the Dead has Zak going off by himself and apparently dying; he wakes up at his own funeral and hears her crying, but can't move or speak himself. This book mostly has him as the viewpoint character and he's more concerned with paralysis and being Buried Alive, so again Tash's reaction isn't given any focus... but it's pretty awful to think about.
In The Nightmare Machine, Zak has to face a number of fears thanks to the titular horror, and it takes his worst fear to escape it.
The Emigrants is full of this thanks to it's near-documentary depiction of a group of people who emigrate from Sweden to America during the mid-19th century. The fear of not being able to feed or clothe your children, your children dying from hunger or disease, sailing across an ocean knowing that some of the passangers will die during the journey, fear of being a stranger in a strange land and not speaking the language so you can't communicate even if your life depends on it... The list is very, very long.
Imagine going away on a business trip, leaving your lover behind. Then, while you're there, your best friend shows up without warning, to tell you that your lover was just murdered. Then you find out that it was an enemy of yours, the same man who tried to rape you once, but you didn't tell anyone about. In other words, the love of your life is dead, and you're responsible.
Worse than that. The Harringtons knew that when their little girl joined the Navy she may one day be killed in battle—but having her captured by the enemy and watching her execution on TV is one of the most heartrending passages in the entire series—even though, by this point, the reader already knows it's completely fake.
A Shadow Girl's Summer of Love and Madness has Eliza being kidnapped by someone her mother, Kala just invited into their home. Kala is killed by the kidnapper and dies not knowing if her baby will be taken to safety.
The Bell Jar contains a Young Adult Fear, when Esther realises that while she is intelligent, she doesn't have any idea what to do for a career and fears that life is passing her by. This will hit close to home for many teenagers and twenty-somethings.
Ivanhoe: Being part of a subjugated race? Check. Having arrogant aristocrats able and willing to do whatever they want to do to you with the approval of the law? Check. Having a Corrupt Church tell you that you are supposed to be subjugated? Check. Being mocked because your ancestors lost a battle? Check. Having ones loved one kidnapped by a would-be rapist? Check.
In the Aunt Dimity series, once Lori becomes a parent, these sorts of fears start to figure into her reactions. This gets a humourous treatment when she's an overprotective new mom, but it also drives her more serious investigation of the possible pedophile in Aunt Dimity: Vampire Hunter.
A Long Way from Chicago touches on things like losing one's house or become penniless and destitute. It doesn't help that the second book is set during The Great Depression. The second book also has a frightening chapter where Mary Alice has her first encounter with a tornado, and hides in the storm cellar with her grandmother and their pets.
In ''A Macabre Myth of a Moth-Man, Nina spends an entire year missing her boyfriend and wondering why he isn't contacting her and if it's somehow her fault or even if he's dead. The boyfriend was taken advantage of by a pharmaceutical corporation, illegally experimented on, and basically was broken so badly he felt he could never go home again.
The first six books of The Black Company series deal with the Company combating various Evil Sorcerors and following a pair of grand quests. The seventh book, Bleak Seasons, deals with the annalist's personal tragedies while enduring a siege, grappling with famine, disease, and betrayal.
For a sweet, charming series of rhyming books for children, the Madeline series is full of parent fear.
Madeline - The little heroine comes down with a sudden, life-threatening illness that requires emergency surgery.
Madeline's Rescue - She falls into the Seine and nearly drowns.
Madeline and the Bad Hat - A little boy is mauled by a pack of dogs and just barely rescued with serious injuries. (Granted, he brought it on himself by provoking them, but still...)
Madeline and the Gypsies - Two children. Accidentally left behind at a carnival. At the top of the ferris wheel. In the middle of the night. During a thunderstorm. And by the time the adults realize they're missing and (presumably) hurry back to find them, the carnival people have already left, taking the kids with them. Readers know that they're happy and well cared for by the gypsies, but Miss Clavel certainly doesn't.
Madeline in London - A horse runs away with the same two children on its back.
Only Madeline's Christmas, the last book by the original author, avoids this trope.
Happens in the Tortall Universe, sometimes as a result of previous protagonists reaching adulthood.
Daughter of the Lioness: The main reason George won't let Aly become a field agent in the spy corps (despite her skill and desire for it) is because he knows exactly what dangers spies face and he couldn't protect her. Word of God says he took her to a meeting with a contact as a little girl that ended with knives drawn.
Provost's Dog: Hoo boy. First, you might be unable to feed your family. Second, you might be so hard up for a job that you have to take a really shady one and then get killed at the end of it, leaving your loved ones penniless and thinking you've abandoned then (the Fire Opal murders). Third, if you do have some item of value and sentiment, your child might get abducted to extort you for it and killed if you don't pay up (Shadow Snake). Fourth, your child might be sold into slavery—maybe even by your own spouse or lover, as nearly happened to Beka's sister. Fifth, you might wind up with a wallet full of counterfeit money and not only is it worthless, you could be tortured or executed if you accidentally pass them on (Bloodhound). Sixth, Domestic Abuse.
In Natalie Mooshabr's Mice, Linpeck's mother is absolutely terrified when Mrs Mooshabr, a person employed by the state agency Care of Child, appears in their home and says she was asked to investigate and make sure Linpeck won't roam any more.