Social Psychology Is Social Withdrawal In Childhood

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Social Psychology is Social Withdrawal in Childhood


Children who are socially withdrawn miss out on the social experiences and social learning that accompany frequent interaction with peers. These children exhibit social-cognitive deficits and unskilled behavior, they have negative self-perceptions, they are more likely to be rejected and victimized by their peers, and they are more likely to experience loneliness and depression (see Rubin, Burgess, Kennedy, & Stewart, 2003, for a review). As these children develop, they are at risk for subsequent internalizing problems (Morison & Masten, 1991; Ollendick, Greene, Weist, & Oswald, 1990; Rubin, Chen, McDougall, Bowker, & McKinnon, 1995). Thus, an examination of both the precursors and pathways to social withdrawal will enhance understanding of the processes leading to potential mental health problems.

Table of Contents


Predictors of Social Withdrawal5

Literature Review5

Stability and Trajectories of Social Withdrawal7



Selection of Target Groups11

Peer Behavioral Nominations11

Teacher Ratings12

Targetting Procedure12

Observations of Maternal Behaviour13

Behavioral Control14


Discussion and Conclusion16


Social Psychology is Social Withdrawal in Childhood


In the present study, we adopted the definition of social withdrawal used by Rubin and Asendorpf (1993): “the consistent display (across situations and over time) of all forms of solitary behavior when encountering familiar and/or unfamiliar peers” (Rubin et al., 2003, p. 376). This umbrella definition focuses on the solitary behavior of the child, rather than on the sources of such behavior. One source may be the child's individual dispositional or motivational characteristics. For example, some socially withdrawn children are shy (also known as reticent, socially anxious, inhibited), that is, inhibited in novel and evaluative social situations. These children are said to have both high social approach and high social avoidance motivation. That is, these children desire to interact with their peers, but their social wariness and anxiety inhibit them from doing so (Asendorpf, 1990, 1991; Rubin & Asendorpf, 1993). Another group of children who are socially withdrawn have a different set of individual characteristics—they are active immature (Rubin & Mills, 1988; also known as solitary active [Coplan, Rubin, Fox, Calkins, & Stewart, 1994] or active isolates [Harrist, Zaia, Bates, Dodge, & Pettit, 1997]). These children display impulsive and rambunctious cognitively immature solitary behavior in the presence of peers.

Another source of socially withdrawn behavior is the interpersonal environment—that is, the active isolation (rejection, exclusion) of the child by the peer group. Some shy children are excluded by their peers and others are not, and it is the shy excluded (or rejected) children who are at higher risk for internalizing problems (Gazelle & Ladd, 2003; Gazelle & Rudolph, 2004; Ladd, 2006). Although much less is known about active immature children than about those who are shy, it would appear that the sources of their withdrawn behavior are both individual and interpersonal—their individual characteristics may make them unattractive play partners (Coplan, Wichmann, & Lagacé-Séguin, 2001; Harrist, Zaia, Bates, Dodge, & Pettit, 1997), resulting eventually in active isolation by the peer group.

Predictors of Social Withdrawal

Long-term longitudinal studies investigating the stability, roots, developmental course, and consequences of social withdrawal are ...
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