Shyness, social acceptance, and self-esteem in early adolescence : interrelationships and the role of parents' problem solving
Miller, Scott Reamy
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Learning to be successful in social interactions is one of the hallmarks of late childhood and early adolescence. Children who lack social initiative may be hesitant to engage in the social practice necessary to become socially skilled and successfully integrated into social networks. Lack of social integration may be manifested as poor social acceptance for these youth who tend toward shy behavior. Poor social acceptance, furthermore, may lead to decreases in self-esteem as the importance of social integration increases in developmental importance. Data from the Adolescent Development Research Program (ADRP) at the University of Georgia were used to assess the relationships among shyness, social acceptance, and self-esteem during the transition to adolescence. Three waves of data were collected from adolescents aged 11 to 15 years, their parents, and a favorite teacher between April 1994 and December 1997. Structural equation modeling via LISREL 8.54 (Joreskog & Sorbom, 2003) was used to test the relationship of shyness to both social acceptance and self-esteem and to also test social acceptance as a possible mediator of the relationship between shyness and self-esteem three years later. Also, the moderating influence of parents’ positive problem solving on the relationship of shyness to both social acceptance and self-esteem was assessed using two-group analyses involving high and low problem-solving groups. Shyness showed a negative association with social acceptance one year later and accounted for a residual decline in self-esteem over the last two waves of the study. Social acceptance, however, was not supported as a mediator of the relationship between shyness and self-esteem, but showed a trend toward moderating this relationship. Parents’ positive problem solving did not moderate the relationship of shyness to self-esteem. Youth with high problem-solving fathers and mothers, however, showed a significant negative association between shyness and self-esteem three years later when self-esteem at time 2 was included as a predictor. Results suggest the importance of encouraging social exploration in late childhood and early adolescence and the possible dangers of excessive parental involvement during these years.