The Best Friendships of Shy/Withdrawn Children: Prevalence, Stability, and Relationship Quality

The mutual best friendships of shy/withdrawn and control children were examined for prevalence, stability, best friend's characteristics, and friendship quality. Using peer nominations of shy/socially withdrawn and aggressive behaviors, two groups of children were identified from a normative sample of fifth-grade children: shy/withdrawn (n = 169) and control (nonaggressive/nonwithdrawn; n = 163). Friendship nominations, teacher reports, and friendship quality data were gathered. Results revealed that shy/withdrawn children were as likely as control children to have mutual stable best friendships. Withdrawn children's friends were more withdrawn and victimized than were the control children's best friends; further, similarities in social withdrawal and peer victimization were revealed for withdrawn children and their friends. Withdrawn children and their friends reported lower friendship quality than did control children. Results highlight the importance of both quantitative and qualitative measures of friendship when considering relationships as risk and/or protective factors.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Additional analyses with Time 2 ECP data were performed to determine whether the groups were based on fairly stable behavioral characteristics. Evidence for behavioral stability was revealed; results indicated that withdrawn children were significantly more withdrawn (p < .001) and victimized (p < .001) and significantly less popular and sociable (p < .001) than control children at Time 2.

  2. 2.

    Behavioral similarity analyses were also conducted for each peer nomination variable for the entire sample (Time 1 = 495 children and their respective best friends; Time 2 = 491 children and their respective best friends). At Time 1, the similarity was greatest between children and their best friends on the prosocial behaviors variable (r = .29, p < .001), followed by a correlation of .23 (p < .001) for the popular/sociable variable, and a correlation of .21 between children and their best friends’ victimization scores (p < .001). Significant correlations also emerged for the aggression (r = .17, p < .001) and shyness/withdrawal (r = .17, p<.001) variables. At Time 2, the strongest correlation was for the victimization variable (r = .24, p < .001) and also for the popular/sociable (r = .22, p < .001) and prosocial behaviors variable (r = .18, p < .001). Also, analyses yielded significant correlations for the aggression (r = .11, p < .02) and shyness/withdrawal (r = .10, p < .03) variables.

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The authors would like to thank the children, parents, and teachers who participated in the study as well as Alli Buskirk, Charissa Cheah, Stacey Chuffo, Kathleen Dwyer, Erin Galloway, Jon Goldner, Sue Hartman, Amy Kennedy, Angel Kim, Sarrit Kovacs, Alison Levitch, Abby Moorman, Andre Peri, Margro Purple, Joshua Rubin, Erin Shockey, and Bridget Trame who assisted in data collection and input. The research reported in this manuscript was supported by National Institute of Mental Health grant # MH58116 to Kenneth H. Rubin.

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Rubin, K.H., Wojslawowicz, J.C., Rose-Krasnor, L. et al. The Best Friendships of Shy/Withdrawn Children: Prevalence, Stability, and Relationship Quality. J Abnorm Child Psychol 34, 139–153 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-005-9017-4

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KEY WORDS:

  • social withdrawal
  • friendship
  • adjustment