Fear of aids: Are there replicable, invariant questionnaire dimensions?

Willem A. Arrindell, Michael W. Ross, K. Robert Bridges, Wiljo van Hout, Annet Hofman, Robbert Sanderman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


To date, there has been only one study (Bouton et al., 1987) that aims specifically at developing a measure for assessing personal concern about acquiring AIDS. In the present study, it was argued that the suitability and/or validity of the Bouton et al. Fear of AIDS Scale should be seriously questioned on conceptual and psychometric grounds. In addition, there are no published studies in which the dimensionality of AIDS fear has been examined. The present investigation was carried out to examine whether fear of AIDS can be shown to emerge as a consistent fear composite in factor analysis of specific AIDS-related fears and whether it can be distinguished from Blood/Injury fears, the latter of which has been established as a complex which possesses both cross-sample and cross-national invariance qualities. The dimensional structure of a 38-item Fear of AIDS Schedule (the acronym FAIDSS being used for describing it) was explored with a sample of 684 American students. Principal components analysis with VARIMAX rotation revealed two separate but related, internally consistent and replicable dimensions of AIDS fear: (I) Fear of AIDS contraction associated with risky sexual behavior, and the fear of the psychological and somatic consequences of having caught the disease, and (II) Fear of exposure to the AIDS virus and other associated viruses through (a) interpersonal, not necessarily sexual, contact with members of risk groups and (b) the subjection to medical procedures. Both components were shown to be invariant across sex. Further analyses pointed to the possibility of using a general (i.e. overall) measure of AIDS fear next to the factorially-derived subscales. On the basis of the patterns of correlations of the fear of AIDS constructs with the conventional Fear Survey Schedule-III and background factors such as sex, age, ethnicity/race, students' major in college and religious preference, it was concluded that, if unjustified overgeneralizations or misleading undergeneralizations are to be avoided, the researcher/clinician should use both the subscales and the general scale conjointly. Evidence in favor of discriminant validity of the fear of AIDS constructs in relation to Blood/Injury fears was obtained. Some implications and recommendations for further study were given.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-115
Number of pages47
JournalAdvances in Behaviour Research and Therapy
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1989

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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