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Adult Fear

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"[When] you get past the age where you’re capable of believing there’s something carnivorous and hairy under the bed, you don't then lose your capacity for fear. The monsters go, and in their place, lucky you, you get to start imagining real calamities: losing your parents in a car wreck, becoming destitute, having someone you love turn on you, or doing something so shocking that the community ostracizes you."

Adult Fears are about the things mature, well-adjusted adults generally are concerned about, as opposed to supernatural, petty or far-fetched fears: the safety of their children, the safety of their neighborhood, the fidelity of their spouse, the loyalty of their friends and coworkers, the health of themselves and their family, being able to pay their bills, etc. To an adult (especially paranoid fathers), children being preyed upon by paedophiles or sociopaths can be scarier than children being preyed upon by a Xenomorph. To be scared about a fictional monster requires artistic application of the Rule of Scary and a Willing Suspension of Disbelief from the audience, but to be scared about the Death of a Child simply requires enough absence of childhood innocence to be aware of the reality that this (God forbid) can actually happen.


The audience reaction is still to be scared, but this trope plays down the shock factor of more fantastical horror and plays up the relative realism of more mundane threats.

Outliving your children in general might be the worst fear of this kind. Often overlaps with Primal Fear. It is also the reason why tropes such as Mama Bear, Papa Wolf, Overprotective Dad, and Caught Coming Home Late exist.

Can have political purposes as well as entertaining ones; expect to see them evoked all over the place in a Propaganda Piece (in fact, the specific invocation Think of the Children! is its own trope). Defanged Horrors are the result of trying to target the youngest age group.


Example Subpages:

Other Examples:

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    Fairy Tales 
  • In "Morozko", the old woman walks out of her hut and runs into her daughter's corpse, frozen to death after spending a night outdoors in the dead of Russian winter.

  • Sick Sad World: One case in "2 Cruel 4 School" talks about 6-year-olds being murdered. As hosts Jasmine and Mari state, no one should have to wonder if sending their kid to school will end in death.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • On the 12/13/19 episode of WWE Smackdown, The Miz is holding an interview in his house when his wife interrupts to show him something on the baby monitor: his daughter, Monroe, playing with Ramblin' Rabbit. Bray Wyatt then hijacks the stream to taunt the Miz before intoning, "Let me in". The Miz promptly freaks out at the idea that a psychotic maniac is in his daughter's room. By the time he reaches Monroe's room, Bray has disappeared... leaving only a doll with the Fiend's face behind. The Miz, understandably, immediately ends the interview.

  • Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
    • A nearby shooting leads to the school being evacuated. A few students are missing, due to following plotlines outside the school, and realise how terrified they must be making their parents.
  • In Dino Attack RPG, both Sarah Bishop and Helen Rutherford were worried sick about their children being out on the battlefield. Unfortunately, Kate Bishop is abused by Rotor while Bob Rutherford is killed by Ata.
  • The Sky Tides gives us the Series Hiatus-induced coincidence that all five player ships were suddenly decommissioned. Though the players knew that this was to make way for replacements, it's still uncomfortable to deal with the notion that your job and your home can easily be pulled out from under you through no fault of your own.
  • There is no GATE; we did not fight there: With all the adventures Kyte and his gang get up to, this happens pretty often.
    • Kell grabs Kyte with a crushing hug after the events of *The Patrol—First Blood: Battle*, where Kytheus, his friends, and a group of legionaries and harpy archers were massively outnumbered in an ambush by the Drex. They win an overwhelming victory, but still..
    • In the interlude *Mourning Frost*, Lord Frostmourne panics when he notices that his children snuck out to help Kytheus fight the Tyrant.

    Web Animation 
  • Camp Camp: While exchanging spooky stories, Max freaks out Gwen by asking her to contemplate the job market she'll enter once Camp Campbell shuts down.
    • Near the end of the episode "Mind Freakers" Neil almost asphyxiates Nikki by shoving a bunch of scarves (and a live rabbit!) down her throat. The other kids are horrified by this and don't know what to do as Nikki starts foaming out the mouth as she seemed to be on the verge of death. Meanwhile, David and Gwen are distracted watching Bob Ross on television to notice what is happening.
    • Despite his antics being Played for Laughs, Daniel is very disturbing as in his first appearance, he nearly massacres the campers with poisoned kool-aid, only not succeeding because David picked up on how unnatural it was for Max to claim to love anyone and then challenged him to a music duel that distracted Daniel enough to poison himself and in "Torso Takers", he nearly gives Max a complete mental breakdown while pretending to be David and complains about having to stab the kid "like a commoner".
    • A more mundane example but Max suffers from Parental Neglect so severe he openly states that his parents don't care. There's debate among fans about whether or not he's right or just misinterpreting his parents' behavior but either way, a 10-year-old child shouldn't be claiming to be unwanted and unloved.
  • Chadam: Your young daughter keeps running off away from you, into the city that is growing increasingly more dangerous, even following your friend into the most dangerous neighborhood, where if you hadn't gone to save them, they'd have gotten attacked and killed. Later, she gets kidnapped by an evil older man, who plans to use her for his own purposes...
  • Happy Tree Friends: Episodes involving Pop and Cub will often involve Pop seeing his son gruesomely injured and killed, to his horror.
  • RWBY:
    • In the episode "Tipping Point", we see Qrow running in rising panic and desperation to reach Ruby who was being attacked and could have been seriously injured. He barely made it in time and he audibly sighed in relief.
  • Story Booth has a lot of this. Don't be fooled by the cartoony art style, Story Booth has several very dark stories that deal with controversial real world issues like bullying, mass shootings, body image problems, underage drug abuse, pedophilia and much much more. Justified as each story comes from a real person.


Video Example(s):


Clint's Family gets Dusted

Clint gets to live his worst nightmare when, in the middle of a lighthearted picnic, he only turns his head a moment and sees his family has disappeared without warning. He is then overwhelmed by the confusion and distress of having lost his wife and children without having been able to protect them, or even knowing what happened.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (19 votes)

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Main / AdultFear

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Main / AdultFear