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Socially Anxious Science Achievers: The Roles of Peer Social Support and Social Engagement in the Relation Between Adolescents’ Social Anxiety and Science Achievement

Abstract

Socially anxious youth are at an increased risk for academic underachievement, withdrawal from school, and negative peer relationships. Given that learning tasks in science classes rely heavily on peer collaboration and social skills, this study aimed to investigate the link between high-school adolescents’ social anxiety and their science achievement while also determining whether and how peer social support and social engagement mediated the relation. Data was collected from 805 high-school students (48.7% female; 30.9% in 9th, 24.0% in 10th, 25.3% in 11th, 19.8% in 12th grade; 51.2% White, 29.8% Black, 11.4% Biracial, 7.6% Other). The results showed that socially anxious adolescents were more likely to report lower social engagement, which in turn predicted lower science performance. In addition, adolescents with social anxiety tended to experience less peer social support, which led to lower social engagement and subsequent lower science performance. These findings have important implications for guiding teaching practice and school-based interventions that support socially anxious adolescents in learning tasks.

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Funding

This study was supported by the National Science Foundation Grant 1503181 to Ming-Te Wang.

Data Sharing and Declaration

The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are not publicly available, but they are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Contributions

C.L.S. drafted the introduction, literature review, and discussion sections; J.D.T. conducted the analysis and drafted the result section; and M.T.W. designed the study; wrote portions of the introduction, method, result, and discussion sections; and provided feedback on the full draft. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Christina L. Scanlon.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. A review conducted by the Institutional Review Board approved the study to be consistent with the protection of the rights and welfare of human subjects and to meet the requirements of the Federal Guidelines.

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Scanlon, C.L., Del Toro, J. & Wang, MT. Socially Anxious Science Achievers: The Roles of Peer Social Support and Social Engagement in the Relation Between Adolescents’ Social Anxiety and Science Achievement. J Youth Adolescence 49, 1005–1016 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-020-01224-y

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-020-01224-y

Keywords

  • Social anxiety
  • Social engagement
  • Peer support
  • Science achievement
  • Student engagement