Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Social Anxiety and Normal Development

Why does social anxiety increase in adolescence and how does it grow out of control in some adolescents?

2005 - 2011
Michiel Westenberg


We have completed several cross-sectional and longitudinal studies with the Leiden Public Speaking Task as a key ingredient. These studies show that social anxiety increases during adolescence. Other researchers have shown that the prevalence of social anxiety disorder also increases during adolescence. However, little is known about the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of this concurrent increase of normal and deviant forms of social anxiety.

These questions are investigated in sub-projects of the SAND-study.

Key publications

  • Blöte, A. W., Miers, A. C., Van den Bos, E., & Westenberg, P. M. (2019). Negative social self-cognitions: How shyness may lead to social anxiety. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 63, 9-15. DOI: 10.1016/j.appdev.2019.05.003
  • Van den Bos, E., Tops, M., & Westenberg, P. M. (2017). Social anxiety and the cortisol response to social evaluation in children and adolescents. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 78, 159-167. DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2017.02.003
  • Van den Bos, E., Van Duijvenvoorde, A. C. K., & Westenberg, P. M. (2016). Effects of adolescent socio-cognitive development on the cortisol response to social evaluation. Developmental Psychology, 52, 1151-1163. DOI:10.1037/dev0000133
  • Blöte, A. W., Poungjit, A., Miers, A. C., Van Beek, Y., & Westenberg, P. M. (2015). The Speech Performance Observation Scale for Youth (SPOSY): Assessing social performance characteristics related to social anxiety. Journal of Experimental Psychopathology, 6, 168-184. DOI:10.5127/jep.039713
  • Miers, A. C., Blöte, A. W., Heyne, D. A. & Westenberg, P. M. (2014). Developmental pathways of social avoidance across adolescence: The role of social anxiety and negative cognition. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 28, 787-794. DOI: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2014.09.008
  • Van den Bos, E., De Rooij, M., Miers, A. C., Bokhorst, C. L., & Westenberg, P. M. (2014). Adolescents' increasing stress response to social evaluation: Pubertal effects on cortisol and alpha-amylase during public speaking. Child Development, 85(1), 220-236. DOI: 10.1111/cdev.12118
  • Miers, A. C., Blöte, A. W., de Rooij, M., Bokhorst, C. L., & Westenberg, P. M. (2013). Trajectories of social anxiety during adolescence and relations with cognition, social competence and temperament. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 41 (1), 97-110. DOI: 10.1007/s10802-012-9651-6
  • Miers, A. C., Blöte, A.W., & Westenberg, P. M. (2011). Negative social cognitions in socially anxious youth: Distorted reality or a kernel of truth? Journal of Child and Family Studies, 20, 214-223. Doi:10.1007/s10826-010-9423-2.
  • Sumter, S.R., Bokhorst, C.L., Miers, A.C., Van Pelt, J., & Westenberg, P.M. (2010). Age and puberty differences in stress responses during a public speaking task: Do adolescents grow more sensitive to social evaluation? Psychoneuroendocrinology, 35, 1510-1516. (doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2010.05.004).
  • Sumter, S.R., Bokhorst, C.L., & Westenberg, P.M. (2009). Social fears during adolescence: Is there an increase in fear and avoidance? Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 23(7), 897-903.
  • Westenberg, P.M., Bokhorst, C.L., Miers, A.C., Sumter, S.R., Kallen, V.L., Van Pelt, J., & Blöte, A.W. (2009). A prepared speech in front of a pre-recorded audience: Subjective, physiological, and neuroendocrine responses to the Leiden Public Speaking Task. Biological Psychology, 82, 116-124.


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