Empirically-derived subtypes of social withdrawal: Associations with behavioral and cognitive functioning in a naturalistic preschool setting

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Annette La Greca - Committee Chair

Second Committee Member

Daryl Greenfield - Committee Member


Research on children's social withdrawal has found associations with internalizing disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and loneliness. However, this research was conducted on a general type of social withdrawal, examining the quantity of solitary behavior rather than the quality. Recent investigations with preschool children have suggested that there may be subtypes of social withdrawal which have different relationships with behavior problems. This study investigated these theoretical subtypes of social withdrawal and their association with behavioral and cognitive functioning.Subjects were 88 low-income, minority preschool children, enrolled in a Head Start program, who were identified as socially withdrawn by their teachers on the Penn Interactive Preschool Play Scale. During free play time in the classroom, the quality of children's play behavior was observed. Four subtests of the WPPSI-R (Vocabulary, Arithmetic, Block Design, and Picture Completion) were then individually administered to each child. Finally, teachers rated each child's behavior on the Teacher Report Form.Analyses revealed three subtypes of social withdrawal: Watcher children, who engaged in onlooker behavior and low levels of solitary-constructive play; Actor/Explorers, who engaged in solitary-dramatic and solitary-exploratory play; and Off-Task/Immature children, who exhibited unoccupied behavior and solitary-functional play.


Psychology, Social; Psychology, Developmental; Psychology, Clinical; Psychology, Cognitive

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