Social Anxiety and School Refusal in Adolescence

Interpersonal and intrapersonal predictors of social fear in youth

Researcher: Anne Miers, PhD

Financial support from NWO/FES

Adolescents differ markedly in the extent to which they are fearful of social evaluation: Some adolescents are severely anxious of situations in which they are exposed to the scrutiny of others, some are mildly apprehensive, and yet others do not seem to care much about these situations. In my PhD project I investigated specific cognitive factors that are hypothesized to maintain individual differences in social anxiety. My research looked at the extent to which socially anxious youth as compared to non-anxious youth have negative perceptions of their social performance, their physical arousal during social situations and of ambiguous social cues. And, this project tested whether their negative perceptions are justified by for example, independent observers, fellow age peers and objective measurements of physical arousal. These questions were investigated within the context of the Leiden Public Speaking Task (Leiden-PST; Westenberg et al., 2009) and with the aid of a new questionnaire to measure Interpretation Bias, the Adolescents’ Interpretation Bias Questionnaire (AIBQ; Miers et al., 2008).

The current project aims to extend this work by taking a longitudinal approach to explain the development of high social fear levels in adolescence. We are interested in the contribution of a number of variables to the development of high social fear levels, such as negative cognitions, social competence, and temperament. How these variables interact over time to bring about high social anxiety levels is also a focus of the project. We use the data from the SAND study to test these questions and employ specific longitudinal analysis techniques such as group-based trajectory modeling (Nagin, 2005).