Social Anxiety and School Refusal in Adolescence

Social Anxiety and School Refusal in Adolescence

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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

Possible endophenotypes of Social Anxiety Disorder reviewed

A review of genetic and neurobiological markers of vulnerability to social anxiety by Janna Marie Bas-Hoogendam and colleagues was published in the December issue of Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews. Read more (University of Camebridge website).

Janneke Fruin-Helb grant for Elise Kortink

Research Master student Elise Kortink received the award (€2250) for her research proposal to investigate whether neural measures of attachment problems may predict the consequences of these problems later in life. The jury considered her proposal to be the best and most creative. Earlier, Elise received a LISF grant to carry out this research at the Yale Child Study Center in the US, and the Fruin-Helb award allows Elise to continue this research at Leiden University. Elise is affiliated as a research master student with the Social Anxiety and School Refusal lab, and is supervised by Melle van der Molen during her master thesis and research internship.

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Esther van den Bos appointed as assistant professor

As of September 1st 2016, postdoctoral researcher Esther van den Bos has been appointed as an assistant professor.