This article explores an alternative way of conceptualizing the relation between quantitative data on fear of crime derived from closed questions and subsequent elaborated responses to open-ended prompts. Parents were asked to rate their worry about their children as victims of crime. In line with previous research on 'altruistic fear of crime', levels of worry reported by parents were generally high and a function of parental age, personal worry about victimization and perception of rising crime rates. In responding to general fear of crime questions, parents position themselves in relation to broad social issues. Subsequent analysis of the elaborations on these responses indicates more complex and contradictory positions as parents engage with discourses around competing goals of parenthood: child safety, nurturance and positive independence. It is thus concluded that closed responses to broad fear of crime questions are better understood as self positioning within a particular social and interactive context, rather than as measures of fixed underlying variables.