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Adolescent social anxiety as an outcome of inhibited temperament in childhood.

OBJECTIVE: Chess and Thomas suggested that temperament might make a contribution to social phobia and other forms of extreme social anxiety. This study provides the first investigation of the outcomes in adolescents who had been inhibited (subdued to and avoidant of novelty) or uninhibited (approaching novelty) in the second year of life, utilizing both direct interview and direct observation.

METHOD: Seventy-nine subjects, aged 13 years, who had been classified as inhibited or uninhibited in the second year were assessed with both standardized interview and direct observation.

RESULTS: There was a significant association between earlier classification of a child as inhibited and generalized social anxiety at adolescence, but no association with specific fears, separation anxiety, or performance anxiety. The adolescents who were classified as socially anxious made fewer spontaneous comments than those without social anxiety; no relation was seen between any other type of fear and the number of spontaneous comments. Adolescent girls who had been inhibited as toddlers were more likely to be impaired by generalized social anxiety than boys.

CONCLUSIONS: The interview and observational data indicate that important aspects of an inhibited temperament are preserved from the second year of life to early adolescence, which predispose an adolescent to social anxiety.

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