Smiling through the shyness: The adaptive function of positive affect in shy children.
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Most research treats shyness as a homogenous phenomenon when examining its correlates and consequences, which limits the identification of specific groups of shy children who may be at differential risk for maladaptive social outcomes. Here, we examined whether different types of shyness were uniquely associated with social adjustment and physiological stress reactivity in school-age children (n = 92; Mage = 7.47 years; SD = 2.23 years). During the completion of a videotaped self-presentation task, behavioral measures of positivity and avoidance were coded in order to derive shyness groups (i.e., positive shy: high positivity and high avoidance; negative shy: low positivity and high avoidance; and non-shy: low avoidance). Further, during the self-presentation task, direct observation of activity level was coded, and salivary cortisol reactivity to the social stressor was measured. We also collected parent- and teacher report of children's social anxiety, and parent report of children's sociability. We found that negative shy children were more socially anxious according to both parent- and teacher report, less sociable, and they also displayed reduced activity levels during the speech than the positive shy and non-shy children. Positive shy and non-shy children were indistinguishable across all measures of social behavior. Shyness group had no influence on children's cortisol stress reactivity. Our findings provide support for heterogeneity in the expression of shyness, and highlight that not all shy children experience poor social adjustment. Expression of positivity during socially threatening situations may have an adaptive social function in shy school-age children, as it is associated with reduced social anxiety and increased sociability. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).
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