Prospective analysis of the relationship between adolescents' social anxiety, parents' behavior, and friendship formation

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

Eric M. Vernberg - Committee Chair


One hundred and twenty-two adolescents, aged 11 to 14, were followed for nine months subsequent to residential relocation. The relationships between adolescents' self-reported social anxiety, parent behavior (reported by adolescents and their parents), and the development of new friendships were analyzed. Data were collected immediately after the move, and also at three months and eight months post-move. Results suggest that adolescent social anxiety may be ameliorated by parental strategies for facilitating adolescent friendship formation which encourage the development of independence, emotional autonomy, and self-efficacy. Specifically, social evaluative anxiety is most likely to change soon after the relocation, with alterations in socially avoidant behavior coming later in the year. Parent behavior also appears to change in response to adolescents' social anxiety, with parents of socially anxious girls providing more protective and nurturant behavior following increases in social anxiety, while parents of socially anxious boys seem to respond with greater allowance of independence and autonomy. The development of adolescents' peer companionship was predicted by both adolescent social anxiety and parents friendship facilitation behavior, although the anticipated interaction of these effects was not obtained. Results are discussed in terms of potential implications for social anxiety theory, as well as clinically relevant interventions for adolescents in this life transition. Parallels are drawn between hypothesized developmental precursors to dependent and avoidant personality styles and potential pathways to subtypes of social anxiety.


Psychology, Social; Psychology, Clinical; Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

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