The aim of this study was to explore young children's perceptions, beliefs, and anticipated outcomes about different types of social withdrawal (shyness, unsociability, social avoidance). Participants were N = 212 children (n = 110 boys) aged 2.55–6.37 years (M = 4.86, SD = 0.89) recruited from three preschools and kindergartens in Italy. Children were interviewed individually and asked about hypothetical peers displaying different types of social withdrawal (i.e., shy, unsociable, socially avoidant) and for comparison purposes, aggressive and socially competent behaviors were also assessed. Among the three vignettes depicting types of withdrawn children, children rated the hypothetical shy peer as having the highest social motivations, the unsociable peer as receiving the least sympathy from others, and the avoidant peer as being the least intelligent and least liked by the teacher. In addition, girls reported wanting to play more with the shy peer than boys, and kindergarteners reported a higher affiliative preference for all subtypes of socially withdrawn peers than preschoolers. These findings suggest that Italian young children have a quite sophisticated ability to differentiate among the different social motivations and emotions that may underlie social withdrawal.

Additional Metadata
Keywords peer perceptions, shyness, social avoidance, unsociability, young children
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1111/sode.12386
Journal Social Development
Citation
Zava, F. (Federica), Watanabe, L.K. (Lori K.), Sette, S. (Stefania), Baumgartner, E. (Emma), Laghi, F. (Fiorenzo), & Coplan, R. (2019). Young children's perceptions and beliefs about hypothetical shy, unsociable, and socially avoidant peers at school. Social Development. doi:10.1111/sode.12386