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

School Absenteeism:

Universal Problem Seeks Gold Standard Solutions

From March 12th trough March 16th, 25 international academics and practitioners meet in Leiden to focus on the thorny problem of school absenteeism. Participants in the Lorentz Workshop aim to reach consensus on best practices for conceptualizing school attendance problems and identifying at-risk youth. The workshop is organized by David Heyne, Carolyn Gentle-Genitty, Malin Gren Landell, Glenn Melvin and Ken Reid. In their view, a shared approach to operationalization of school attendance problems will benefit identification and a shared approach to differentiation among school attendance problems will benefit interventions.

Research Master's Thesis Award for Elise Kortink

Elise Kortink won the research master thesis prize from the Institute of Psychology, with her thesis “Community structure analysis of rejection sensitive personality profiles: a common neural response to social evaluative threat”. With her thesis, Elise demonstrated that she was able to use complex analysis techniques (e.g., EEG time-frequency analysis, community structure analysis) and report/interpret the results in a clear fashion. Elise’s thesis contributes to our understanding of neural correlates of social evaluative feedback processing in those individuals sensitive to social rejection. Elise’s thesis is of exceptional quality and we are very proud of Elise that she has won this prize. Congrats!!!

See also: Who are the winners of the Psychology awards of 2017?

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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