25 January 2008

Children scared of hospital clowns

Researchers from the University of Sheffield, led by Dr Penny Curtis from the School of Nursing and Midwifery, have found that images of clowns frighten rather than comfort children in hospital.

A survey of more than 250 children aged between 4 and 16 found all of them disliked clowns as part of hospital decor, with even the oldest children finding them scary.

The University of Sheffield polled the children for the Space to Care study aimed at improving hospital design for children.

Dr Penny Curtis, a senior lecturer at the university, said: "As adults we make assumptions about what works for children. We found that clowns are universally disliked by children. Some found them frightening and unknowable."

The findings, reported in Nursing Standard magazine, highlighted the importance of consulting children, who want colourful spaces and references to contemporary culture, when designing or changing hospital environments.