, Volume 15, Issue 5, pp 245-255
Date: 09 May 2006

Social phobia, anxiety, oppositional behavior, social skills, and self-concept in children with specific selective mutism, generalized selective mutism, and community controls

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We compared social phobia, anxiety, oppositional behavior, social skills, and self-concept in three groups: (1) 28 children with specific mutism (who did not speak to teachers but were more likely to speak to parents and peers at home and school); (2) 30 children with generalized mutism (whose speaking was restricted primarily to their homes); and (3) 52 community controls. Children with generalized mutism evidenced higher anxiety at school, and more separation anxiety, OCD, and depressive symptoms at home. Parents and teachers reported that the social phobia and anxiety scores of children in both the specific and generalized mutism subgroups were higher than controls. Children in both the specific and generalized mutism groups evidenced greater deficits in verbal and nonverbal social skills at home and school than controls. Teachers and parents did not report differences in nonverbal measures of social cooperation and conflict resolution and we found no evidence that selective mutism was linked to an increase in externalizing problems such as oppositional behavior or ADHD. Although children with specific mutism speak in a wider range of situations and appear less anxious to their teachers than children with generalized mutism, significant socially phobic behavior and social skills deficits are present in both groups.

Charles E. Cunningham, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster University. This research was supported by an Ontario Mental Health Foundation Senior Research Fellowship to Dr. Cunningham and the Jack Laidlaw Chair in Patient-Central Health at McMaster University Faculty of Health Sciences. We express our appreciation to the research teams who provided assistance with this project and to Despina Papadopolous and Donna Bohaychuk for editorial assistance