Social Anxiety and School Refusal in Adolescence

Gene-environment interaction in social anxiety during adolescence

Researcher: Caroline Bokhorst, PhD

Financial support from Leids Universitair Fonds (LUF)

Social anxiety disorder is one of the most common psychological problems in adults. Epidemiological studies have shown that the age-of-onset is often during the adolescent period. In addition, an increase in the level of social anxiety is reported in non-clinical adolescent samples. However, because the level of social anxiety stabilizes in young adulthood, the adolescent years are crucial to the development of social anxiety.

Behavioral genetic studies have shown that genetic and environmental factors play a role in the development of social anxiety. From genetic studies some candidate-genes are put forward, but the relation between these specific genes and social anxiety is not clear-cut. A possible explanation might be that these specific genes are not directly related to social anxiety levels, but only in interaction with environmental factors. However, no gene-environment studies are available for social anxiety. In the current pilot study a first step will be made to investigate those gene-environment interactions.