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Social Withdrawal and Anxiety in Childhood and Adolescence: Interaction between Individual Tendencies and Interpersonal Learning Mechanisms in Development

Introduction to the Special Issue


In this introduction to the special issue on Social Withdrawal and Anxiety in Childhood and Adolescence: Interaction Between Individual Tendencies and Interpersonal Learning Mechanisms in Development, we analyze conceptual models guiding the twelve studies featured herein. Findings from multiple investigations support Diathesis – Stress Models which emphasize the role of parent- or peer-related interpersonal stress in strengthening affective-behavioral or biological vulnerabilities (diatheses) to anxious solitude or social anxiety. Other investigations support only child vulnerability effects, consistent with a Diathesis-only Model, but such effects are often framed as potentially part of broader Diathesis-Stress or Child by Environment Transactional Models. Next we discuss novelty in development as defined as directional change in the progression of affective-behavioral patterns over time. Novelty in development is postulated in: 1) a Chronic Stress Model that proposes that interpersonal stress can generate or maintain social withdrawal and anxiety; 2) Stress Generation and Transactional Models that propose that child vulnerability can evoke interpersonal stress; and 3) an Ecological Transition Model that proposes that ecological transitions can serve as turning points prompting reorganization in the child-environment system which can result in the deflection of previous patterns of adjustment onto alternate trajectories. We also highlight additional themes from the set of studies found herein. These themes include the significance of gender and culture vis-à-vis the development of social withdrawal and anxiety. Other themes include motivations for social withdrawal; the influence of peer predictability on social withdrawal and brain function; and how the study of multiple developmental pathways has been supported by contemporary analytic techniques.

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Preparation of this manuscript was supported by Florida State University for Gazelle and Grant R01 MH103253 from the National Institutes of Health to Rubin.

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Correspondence to Heidi Gazelle.

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Gazelle, H., Rubin, K.H. Social Withdrawal and Anxiety in Childhood and Adolescence: Interaction between Individual Tendencies and Interpersonal Learning Mechanisms in Development. J Abnorm Child Psychol 47, 1101–1106 (2019).

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