Social Anxiety and School Refusal in Adolescence

Normal development of sensitivity to social evaluation in adolescence

Researcher: Esther van den Bos, PhD

It has often been remarked that sensitivity to social evaluation increases during adolescence; as they grow older, adolescents typically become more nervous about what their age-peers think of them. In recent years, some empirical studies comparing different age groups within the adolescent period have demonstrated that older adolescents show larger biological stress responses (e.g. as measured by cortisol, salivary alpha-amylase, hearth rate, blood pressure) to social evaluative situations, such as the Leiden Public Speaking Task. However, it is largely unknown why sensitivity to social evaluation increases during adolescence.

The longitudinal data collected in the SAND-study allow us to follow the development of sensitivity to social evaluation within individual adolescents. Moreover, with these data, we can investigate the contributions of factors correlated with age that may underlie the increase in sensitivity to social evaluation during adolescence, such as pubertal development, cognitive development and psychosocial development.