Early Childhood Shyness Linked to Teen Anxiety

shy childIn the article “Infant Attachment Security and Early Childhood Behavioral Inhibition Interact to Predict Adolescent Social Anxiety Symptoms,” a few interesting points that might guide us in our parenting were found that social anxiety as teenagers was increased for:

  • Infants who were insecure as infants and who either ignored their parents after a time of separation
  • Infants who were angry with their parents after a time of separation.


Those infants who were easily comforted by their parents after a time of separation (thought to be securely attached as infants) had the least social anxiety as teenagers.

By observing these infants/children at 14 months, and 2, 4 ,and 8 years of age, researchers could determine those who were secure and easily comforted by parents after times of separation and determine those who were shy, unattached or became angry and detached with their parents after a time of separation.  As teenagers, those who felt nervous going to parties, dances, or other groups where there were people they didn’t know, or speaking in front of groups or to play a team sport scored highest on social anxiety scales than youth without these nervous feelings.

So what can we do as parents when we seem to have an anxious or shy infant or toddler or child?

The study did not give us answers but I have a couple thoughts:

  • If your infant is shy and anxious in new situations, don’t force them into these situations in a way that creates even more anxiety (stress overload).
  • Do gently encourage and I like to think of you sitting on your hands in a group of family or friends and not providing a lap or comforting arms when your little one comes for “protection”. You see they need to get the message that this is a safe group and there is nothing to protect them from.  When you wrap your arms around them and say “mommy/daddy will protect you”, it’s as if you are saying these are scary people, stay with me.

We learn to overcome our fears little by little.  Provide your child opportunities to overcome and build confidence. Small steps at a time.

Most public speakers have developed that skill over years and years of hard work and many still have fear but they don’t let the fear define them.

You can read the article here…



Dr. Paul




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