Thesis

Frequency of Social Anxiety Behaviors During Preschool-Age and Parent- and Child-Report of Social Anxiety During Early School-Age

Social anxiety often emerges early in childhood, persists over time, and is associated with impairment in functioning. However, early social inhibition is normative in young children. More information is needed to determine when these developmentally typical behaviors may be problematic. The present longitudinal study examined the frequency with which social anxiety behaviors during preschool-age (ages 3-5 years) were associated with parent- and child-reported anxiety during early school-age (ages 5-7 years). In the first assessment of this study (Time 1), parents completed daily diary entries for 14 consecutive nights about the frequency of their child’s social anxiety behaviors each day. In the follow-up assessment two years later (Time 2), parents completed a diagnostic interview and children completed questionnaire and story stem measures to assess children’s current levels of social anxiety. Parent-reported social anxiety behavior at Time 1 predicted higher parent-reported social anxiety symptoms at Time 2. When examining specific frequencies of daily social anxiety behaviors associated with later social anxiety symptoms, the results showed that parents who reported socially anxious behaviors toward new people and towards peers and other children at least twice per week at Time 1 reported higher levels of social anxiety symptoms at Time 2. No significant associations were found between parent-reported social anxiety behaviors at Time 1 and child-reported social anxiety at Time 2. Exploratory analyses did not find significant longitudinal associations between Time 1 social anxiety and Time 2 comorbid symptoms; however, a significant concurrent association was found between Time 2 parent-reported social anxiety, other anxiety and Oppositional Defiant Disorder symptoms. These results suggest that socially anxious behaviors occurring at least twice per week in early childhood may contribute to risk for the development of psychopathology. Prevention and intervention can reduce the negative impact of social anxiety on children’s development; programs should target psychopathology relating to social anxiety and other emotional, social, and behavioral difficulties in preschool-aged-children.

Social anxiety often emerges early in childhood, persists over time, and is associated with impairment in functioning. However, early social inhibition is normative in young children. More information is needed to determine when these developmentally typical behaviors may be problematic. The present longitudinal study examined the frequency with which social anxiety behaviors during preschool-age (ages 3-5 years) were associated with parent- and child-reported anxiety during early school-age (ages 5-7 years). In the first assessment of this study (Time 1), parents completed daily diary entries for 14 consecutive nights about the frequency of their child’s social anxiety behaviors each day. In the follow-up assessment two years later (Time 2), parents completed a diagnostic interview and children completed questionnaire and story stem measures to assess children’s current levels of social anxiety. Parent-reported social anxiety behavior at Time 1 predicted higher parent-reported social anxiety symptoms at Time 2. When examining specific frequencies of daily social anxiety behaviors associated with later social anxiety symptoms, the results showed that parents who reported socially anxious behaviors toward new people and towards peers and other children at least twice per week at Time 1 reported higher levels of social anxiety symptoms at Time 2. No significant associations were found between parent-reported social anxiety behaviors at Time 1 and child-reported social anxiety at Time 2. Exploratory analyses did not find significant longitudinal associations between Time 1 social anxiety and Time 2 comorbid symptoms; however, a significant concurrent association was found between Time 2 parent-reported social anxiety, other anxiety and Oppositional Defiant Disorder symptoms. These results suggest that socially anxious behaviors occurring at least twice per week in early childhood may contribute to risk for the development of psychopathology. Prevention and intervention can reduce the negative impact of social anxiety on children’s development; programs should target psychopathology relating to social anxiety and other emotional, social, and behavioral difficulties in preschool-aged-children.

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