Revisiting the double-edged sword of self-regulation: Linking shyness, attentional shifting, and social behavior in preschoolers
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Although children's self-regulation has been conceptualized positively, there may be individual differences in self-regulatory processes, some of which might not be adaptive depending on temperamental factors. We examined whether individual differences in children's self-regulation (i.e., inhibitory control and attentional shifting) moderated the association between shyness and social behavior in multiple social contexts (N = 156 children, 74 girls; Mage = 4.06 years, SD = 0.78). Only in children with high attentional shifting was shyness associated with lower levels of social support seeking during a frustration task and with lower levels of social engagement during a stranger approach task. These results were not attributable to differences in baseline physiological arousal indexed by respiratory sinus arrhythmia. These findings suggest that for some shy children, high levels of self-regulation may be less adaptive, leading to rigidity or over-control in some social contexts, possibly hindering social interaction.
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