Social Anxiety and the School Environment of Adolescents

  • Anke W. BlöteEmail author
  • Anne C. Miers
  • David A. Heyne
  • P. Michiel Westenberg


Adolescents spend a great deal of their daily life at school, necessitating a considerable amount of social interaction. For the socially anxious adolescent, the school environment presents many potentially stressful situations such as giving an oral presentation, answering questions in class, making friends, and participating in groups. In these situations, they may be ridiculed, excluded, or even victimized. The socially anxious student may stop socializing with classmates and friends, stop attending certain classes, or even refuse to attend school altogether. The first part of this chapter describes how social anxiety manifests itself in the school setting. We review situations which are distressful for and even avoided by socially anxious students. An extreme consequence of this distress and avoidance, school refusal, is also discussed. In the second part of the chapter, we describe the way in which socially anxious students’ behavior, and the behavior of their classmates or peers, may contribute to the difficulty that socially anxious students experience at school. In addition to these behavioral and interpersonal factors, we consider the negative social cognitions of socially anxious students. Finally, we offer suggestions for intervention and future research. Because socially anxious students are trapped in a vicious cycle of social anxiety, negative expectations about their social performance, and negative peer responses, it is a complex task to break this vicious cycle. Effective interventions should address a variety of factors, notably negative thinking, poor social skills and as perhaps also physical appearance features.


Social anxiety Adolescents School environment School refusal Social performance Peer victimization 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anke W. Blöte
    • 1
    Email author
  • Anne C. Miers
    • 1
  • David A. Heyne
    • 1
  • P. Michiel Westenberg
    • 1
  1. 1.Developmental & Educational Psychology Unit, Institute of Psychology, Faculty of Social and Behavioural SciencesLeiden UniversityLeidenThe Netherlands

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