Social Anxiety and Peer Relations in Early Adolescence: Behavioral and Cognitive Factors
This study investigated factors associated with social anxiety during early adolescence using multiple informants, including self and peer perspectives, teacher ratings, and direct observations. Negative social performance expectations, maladaptive coping strategies, and social skill deficits were examined as correlates of social anxiety and mediators linking social anxiety with poor peer relations. Participants were 84 middle school students (47 girls, 37 boys) over-sampled for elevated social anxiety. Analyses revealed correlations linking social anxiety with decreased peer acceptance and increased peer victimization. Path analysis indicated that negative social performance expectations and social withdrawal-disengagement accounted for the association between social anxiety and decreased peer acceptance. Social anxiety, self-directed coping strategies, and social withdrawal-disengagement were each directly linked with increased peer victimization for boys. The results replicate findings based on clinical samples, extend understanding of cognitive, social, and behavioral factors associated with social anxiety in middle school, and provide new information regarding gender differences in the correlates of social anxiety.