Can Clowns Be Helpful or Hurtful?

With Penn State recently making national news on “clown hunting” I thought it would be a great idea to look into a topic on clowns. I came across an article about how clowns are supposed to calm down children before they go into the operating room for surgery. I thought this would be a good topic to look in depth too because I am personally terrified of clowns and if I saw one before I went into surgery I probably would have extremely high levels of anxiety. As mostly everyone knows, clowns are comical actors that wear costumes and make up. I came across two studies done by two different groups which both lead to completely different conclusions.



Studies on Anxiety Levels in Children Before Surgery

First Study:

According to the first study I researched claimed that the clowns being present before surgery do NOT help the anxiety levels of a child. The sample of the study was 61 children ranging from 3 to 12 years old who are going to go under a slight procedure. Like a regular experimental study, there were two groups, an experiment group and a control group. They measured how the child reacted to the clown by using the Facial Affective Scale (FAS). After a week the results were carefully looked at it and it showed that clowns do NOT help the anxiety levels of a child. There were obviously third (confounding) variables presented in this study which is if the parents were present, sex of child, previous anxiety, etc.

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Second Study:

According to the second study I researched clowns can ease anxiety for a child going into a slight procedure. This study involved 3 and 8 y.o. who were undergoing anesthesia and elective outpatient surgery. It was a double randomized blind placebo trial. There were three trial arms: (1) no drug + no clown, (2) drug + no clown, and (3) two clowns. The two clowns in the third group were present before the anesthetic was administered. After the testing was done, the conclusion stated that clowns can crucially reduce before surgery anxiety. Once the anesthetic mask is on a child’s face, the clowns have no effect.


This image shows how the different groups reacted to the medicine administered and clowns.

My take-away of the two studies

When comparing the studies there were some positives and negatives that came up. For the first study, it was great how they used a placebo group and a experiment group when testing to see if clowns have an impact on children before they go into surgery. A negative about the first study was all the confounding variables that could’ve been present but simply weren’t taken account for. The second study also had a lot of different groups when being tested which I think allows for a lot more answers and it also was a double blind. Double blind experiments are when the doctor and the patient don’t know what is going on in the experiment. A negative of the experiment are how is giving someone no medicine ethical before going into surgery? Another part that the study didn’t state is what the clown was exactly doing in the pre-operating room.

Take home message

After looking into both studies with two different conclusions I have to say that I personally wouldn’t want to have a clown in the pre-operating room before I go into surgery. I have never been a fan of clowns and especially with the recent news stories about them that are all over the United States. Even when I was younger I was never a fan of them and I for sure won’t be liking them anytime soon either.

3a6822d2c19c532d254b9306cc9cf2e3 Image found here.

3 thoughts on “Can Clowns Be Helpful or Hurtful?

  1. Andie Lynn Sullivan

    I thought this article was interesting because I never knew that clowns were used to calm kids before surgery. I agree with you in that I don’t see how this would help as the general concept is a clown is creepy even when they are not being malicious as they are today. This is a study done that talks about having clown doctors and how that would help with anxiety. It takes an interesting approach and looks at it from the perspective of the medical staff as well as the children.

  2. Shannon Hughes

    I personally agree with your take home message: I would not want a clown present during surgery. However, I thought this topic was a very creative choice especially with all the media popularity surrounding clowns these days. I thought it was a nice job including two studies and breaking down how they were preformed. I wonder if the second study took into account third variables as well as the first study because I think that the parents presence, gender, and previous anxiety are incredibly important measures that could have an affect.

  3. Mallory Dixon

    I never had a fear of clowns until I started seeing the recent news articles about how they have been trying to lure children into the woods. But, I had to undergo a minor surgery (I got my wisdom teeth taken out) and I have a phobia of anything medical, especially needles. (As soon as I saw the needle they were going to use to give me the anesthesia, I fainted in the chair) But, I feel like if I had a clown in the room or something comical to calm me down, I would have been much more relaxed, especially since they made my mom leave the room so I was alone with the doctors. I wonder what would happen if they tried to conduct the experiment now, after all these news reports. Would the results from those experiments still turn out the same or would they be different?

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