Social Anxiety and School Refusal in Adolescence

1. Social Anxiety and Normal Development (SAND)

Through the SAND research program we attempt to explain why an increase of social anxiety – i.e. the fear of negative social evaluation – might be part and parcel of adolescent development and how it can grow out of control for some adolescents.

We have just completed several cross-sectional and longitudinal studies with the public speaking task as a key ingredient. These studies show that social anxiety increases during adolescence. Other researchers have shown that the prevalence of social anxiety disorder also increases during adolescence. However, little is known about the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of this concurrent increase of normal and deviant forms of social anxiety.

Principal Investigator: Prof. Michiel Westenberg, PhD

Current Projects

The development of public speech anxiety in youth

Interpersonal and intrapersonal predictors of social fear in youth

Gene-environment interaction in social anxiety during adolescence

Normal development of sensitivity to social evaluation in adolescence

 

2. Social Anxiety Family Study

The social anxiety family study (also known as the 2 generation study) is a new unique cross sectional study where two generations of the same families will be examined. The study is part of the Leiden Family Lab. Studies have shown that social anxiety disorder runs in families and behavior-genetic research supports both a hereditary and an environmental contribution to the development of social phobia. However, surprisingly little is known about specific neurocognitive properties that are genetically linked to social anxiety disorder.

The key question addressed in this 2 generation study is whether the psychophysiological and neurocognitive abnormalities often reported in social anxiety disorder patients are heritable, and can thus be found in family members of social anxiety disorder patients. Determination of heritability of these neurocognitive deficiencies is essential for endophenotyping. A successful delineation of endophenotypes will facilitate the investigation of gene-environment interactions, which will be the subsequent phase in this research program. This study includes paradigms that tap into the two key dimensions relevant to the social anxiety disorder symptomatology: Attention and Social Cognition.

Principal Investigator: Prof. Michiel Westenberg, PhD

Current Projects

Profiling endophenotypes in social anxiety disorder

Gene-environment interaction in social anxiety during adolescence