Social Anxiety and School Refusal in Adolescence

Social Anxiety and School Refusal in Adolescence


One of the key vulnerabilities in adolescence is social anxiety, defined as an extreme fear for the opinions of others and the avoidance of social situations. In some ways, this development can be seen as a healthy and normal transition where adolescents eventually learn to cope with social fears and become adults with mature social goals. Yet, for some adolescents social anxiety is so prevalent that it has severe social and psychological consequences.

When and how social anxiety develops and how it can go astray is the core focus of our research program. We target this question using a unique approach; we investigate how and when the maturation of behavior and brain function is related to genes versus environment in a socially complex and changing world.

A special focus of this research is on school refusal, an extreme form of social avoidance behavior with direct implications for education and health programs. School refusal may be related to social anxiety, depression, or other forms of psychopathology. We have developed a new treatment protocol to help troubled young people to attend school regularly and return to a normal developmental pathway – a path along which they can succeed academically and do well emotionally and socially.

In Focus

Anita Harrewijn will defend her thesis

On Thursday, January 18th, Anita will defend her thesis, entitled "Shy parent, shy child? Delineating psychophysiological endophenotypes of social anxiety disorder". In her thesis, she presents results from the Social Anxiety Family Study, which is part of the Leiden Family Lab. Anita was supervised by prof. dr. Michiel Westenberg and dr. Melle van der Molen. At present, she is a post-doc in the Child Development Lab at the University of Maryland.

More about Anita's thesis:

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Research Assistant vancancy

We are looking for a research assistant to develop a virtual environment. For more information, see the vacancy.

Electrocortical measures of information processing biases in SAD

September 2017: A review of electrocortical measures of information processing biases in social anxiety disorder was accepted for publication in Biological Psychology. This review is a product of the Lorentz Workshop on Endophenotypes of Social Anxiety Disorder and a result of the collaboration between the SA/SR lab and the Child Emotion Lab headed by Prof Louis Schmidt. You can access the review here.