- Positive and negative expressions of shyness in toddlers: are they related to anxiety in the same way?
- Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
- Volume | Issue number
- 106 | 4
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Research Institute of Child Development and Education (RICDE)
Shyness has generally been investigated as a negative and unpleasant emotional state, strongly related to social anxiety and loneliness. However, recent evidence suggests that shyness may have a positive and socially adaptive form. We examined whether the positive expression of shyness differs from the negative expression of shyness during toddlerhood, and whether a negative relation to anxiety exists. One hundred and two 30-month-old children (56 girls) were asked to mimic animal sounds with a novel person (performance), and then to watch their performance (self-watching). Their expression of pleasure (positive reactions), and distress (negative reactions), as well as their positive and negative expressions of shyness were coded. Children’s temperamental level of shyness, sociability, and anxiety were measured with parent-reported questionnaires. Toddlers produced more positive and negative displays of shyness in the performance task than in the self-watching task. Children’s positive expression of shyness was associated with lower parent-reported anxiety and higher sociability. Negative reactions, but not negative shyness, were related to children’s higher anxiety levels and lower sociability. Multiple linear regression analyses confirmed a negative predictive role of the positive expression of shyness on anxiety. These results suggest that the positive expression of shyness can regulate early anxiety symptoms and serves a social function in interpersonal interactions already in early childhood.
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