No, fear-based education is NOT OKAY.

It doesn’t just happen in babywearing. It happens in public schools, universities for healthcare professionals, dental offices, hospitals, MLM meetings, active shooter drills, and anywhere else where there are people working to influence (or control) other people. Don’t get me wrong, there IS a place for fear. You should be afraid of things that are actually “out to get you”. If you have a family history of Type 2 Diabetes, the fear of illness might motivate you to eat right and monitor your health more closely. But when that fear keeps you from trying a piece of cake at a family or friend’s birthday party when you really, really want a piece of cake, and it causes you to feel left out and sad, then your fear is detrimental to your well-being. A good question to ask yourself might be, “Is this decision a decision that would benefit me even if the consequence I fear never happens?” Another way to assess yourself is to weight your risks and benefits. “Is eating this piece of cake more likely to help me or harm me?”

Ok, so we’ve established there are constructive and destructive facets of fear. We already knew this. So why is fear-based education so prevalent, and why do we all keep using it to get our point across? One reason is that fear in education has not been well studied by educational sociologists so when we use it in education, we are not using evidence-based practice (Jackson, 2013). Another reason is that fear can be a strong motivator for change (Putwain & Remedios, 2014) and when you’re looking to change someone’s mind or behavior, it’s the easiest and fastest way to accomplish the goal.

I’ve written before about how detrimental paternalism in education can be (Avoiding Paternalism in Babywearing Education).  This is the same idea. We want to get people to change a practice or behavior or belief, without taking a full account of how that might affect the individual. Fear-based education delivered to the masses is a recipe for disaster.

The idea of unconcealment rejects the idea that uniquely right answers to questions exist, promoting, through that rejection, a type of epistemological relativism (Kukkola, 2014). Evidence-based diabetes education says sure, have a piece of cake! Just don’t eat a quarter of the cake by yourself, and don’t do it every day. So let’s get back to babywearing. We know that narrow-based carriers don’t seat the femoral head (ball) as deeply into the acetabulum (hip socket). And some people have used that fact to blame narrow-based carriers on hip dysplasia. And then the other side chimes in and says, “But we don’t have any research to support that!” So the other side counters, “Ok, but do you really want to risk it?” And there’s no resolution. But if you can think about “unconcealment”, in the context of babywearing, that means we should not rule out baby carriers, even if a more ergonomic one exists. There are benefits to narrow-based carriers; cost, caregivers with disabilities who sit while wearing, and access and availability. And other reasons that I don’t even know about. Maybe reasons that I don’t even believe. Embracing unconcealment means that I say I don’t know everything and I might be wrong. And I can communicate that to my learners when I am teaching them.

But in my little research-loving heart, I still want to see the evidence. And so do you; we love research! And you shall have it. A research study published last summer showed that hip angles all measured normal when carried in three different types of carriers that resulted in varying angles of hip abduction (Fontecha, Muñoz, & Muñoz, 2019). The International Hip Dysplasia Institute identified those three carriers as the Original Babyjörn®, BabyBjörn® One and Manduca®.  Dr. Charles Price, director of the International Hip Dysplasia Institute, spoke at the 2018 International Babywearing Conference. In his presentation he made it clear that discouraging people from using narrow-based carriers with infants without hip dysplasia was unwise (Price, 2018). His actual words were more direct than my synopsis. ArticleSS

Remove fear from education. Support your learner’s self-motivation. Allow for unconcealment to change you.

Thank you to Dr. Oleksak for sharing the research article with me.

Photo credits:


Jackson C. (2013). Fear In and About Education. In: Brooks R., McCormack M., Bhopal K. (eds) Contemporary Debates in the Sociology of Education. Palgrave Macmillan, London

Kukkola, J. (2014). Fear as ‘Disclosure of Truths’: The educatonal significance of an Existential-Phenomenological insight. META: Research in Hermeneutics, Phenomenology, and Practical Philosophy6(1), 378–396. Retrieved from

Price, C. T. (2018, July 20). 2018 International Babywearing Conference. Des Moines, IA.

Putwain, D., & Remedios, R. (2014). The scare tactic: Do fear appeals predict motivation and exam scores? School Psychology Quarterly, 29(4), 503–516. doi: 10.1037/spq0000048

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