Anxiety interferes with some children's capacity to form friendships

Discussion in 'Parenting News' started by runawaybunny, Aug 30, 2011.

  1. runawaybunny

    runawaybunny Guest

    As children move toward adolescence, they rely increasingly on close relationships with peers. Socially withdrawn children, who have less contact with peers, may miss out on the support that friendships provide. In a new study about the peer relationships of almost 2,500 fifth graders who are socially withdrawn in different ways and those who aren't withdrawn, researchers have found that withdrawn children who can be described as "anxious-solitary" differ considerably in their relationships with peers, compared to other withdrawn children and children who aren't withdrawn.

    The study was conducted by researchers at Arizona State University as part of the Pathways Project, a larger longitudinal investigation of children's social, psychological, and scholastic adjustment in school that is supported by the National Institutes of Health. It appears in the journal Child Development.

    Socially withdrawn children who are classified as anxious-solitary are believed to experience competing motivations—they want to interact with peers, but the prospect of doing so causes anxiety that interferes with such interactions. In contrast, unsociable children are seen as having what's called low approach and low avoidance motives—that is, they have little desire to interact with peers but aren't repelled by the prospect of doing so; for these children, the overtures of peers don't make them feel anxious.

    To learn more about students' classroom behavior, emotions, and relations with peers, researchers collected students' reports in which they nominated or rated their peers on a number of criteria (such as withdrawn behavior, aggressive behavior, prosocial behavior, and emotional sensitivity); teachers also reported on the same criteria. Reports were collected toward the beginning of the academic year and then again toward the end of the academic year. Using these reports, researchers classified students as anxious-solitary withdrawn, unsociable withdrawn, or non-withdrawn.

    Compared with unsociable withdrawn youths and those who aren't withdrawn, anxious-solitary children were found to be more emotionally sensitive and more likely to be excluded and victimized by their peers. They're also less likely to have friends, and when they do have friends, to have fewer than their peers and to lose friendships over time.

    The researchers suggest that peer interaction is harder for anxious-solitary children because their anxiety interferes with their ability to form and maintain friendships. In contrast, unsociable youths tend to have more friends and to maintain those ties over time.

    The study also found that having stable friendships protects children from being victimized by peers—and that both withdrawn and non-withdrawn children benefit from friendships in this way.

    "Understanding withdrawn children's friendships is important because they have fewer contacts with children their own age," according to Gary Ladd, Cowden Distinguished Professor of Family and Human Development at Arizona State University, who led the study. "Because the consequences of peer isolation can be severe, it may be particularly important for withdrawn youth to develop and participate in friendships through organized sports, play dates, and other such activities."
    Story Source:
    The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Society for Research in Child Development.

    This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ConductDisorders or its staff.
  2. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Would be nice if they'd expand on the "other such activities" statement - cop out!
    The reality of today's world is that if you cannot reasonably participate in organized team sports or equivalent activities (community band, for example)... activities where you are committed multiple times per week, and fairly expensive at that... then you are EXCLUDED from everything else in life.

    The kids are anxious because they don't have social experience. They don't have social experience because the only options available do not work for them. And yes, the lack of social experience and the lack of friends puts them at HUGE risk in school.

    Nice to get more details about the problem, but please - can we get some realistic solutions?
  3. StuckAndSearching

    StuckAndSearching New Member

    I totally agree with you..
    there are far too many cliques for an anxious child to even work up the courage to approach without
    a complete let down or laughter at their expense.
    How do I encourage my child to make friends or interact in an anti-social clique that he doesn't even begin to fit into??
    He's 6 year old and very sensitive...thinking this may contribute to the disastrous behavior at school...
  4. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    And when you put them to organized sports or other activities, they are certainly taking their anxious-solitary ways with them and it just ends up being another social group there they are anxious-solitary withdrawn and in risk of being excluded and victimized. Yeah, not a good solution at all.

    With my difficult child the level he was excluded and bullied in different social groups varied, but he certainly wasn't included and doing socially well in any. In his organized sports discipline was usually much tougher than in school so he was less outwardly bullied, but he certainly wasn't included or making friends. He was included in some kind of camaraderie on the field but that certainly didn't carry on off the field. And I suspect that even that was only because he happened to be very good in his sports. Had he been average or one of the poorer athletes in the teams, other kids probably wouldn't had included him even on the field. But because he helped them win, they wanted him there even if they didn't like him. And with music, in the band there was no physical violence but there he was the most excluded and verbal abuse was incredible mean.

    So I agree, just putting your child to activities is not any solution. Unfortunately I have no idea what the solution could be.