Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

The development and prevention of social anxiety in youth

What are the developmental pathways to social anxiety (disorder), the causal processes and maintaining factors? How do these factors interact in the development of social anxiety disorder? How can this knowledge be used to design and implement effective preventive intervention programs for youth?

Anne Miers

Adolescents differ markedly in the extent to which they are fearful of social evaluation: Some adolescents are severely anxious of situations in which they are exposed to the scrutiny of others, some are mildly apprehensive, and yet others do not seem to care much about these situations. How can these individual differences be explained? When and how should we intervene to alleviate marked social fear?

This broad project is underpinned by research highlighting the importance of both cognitive (e.g., interpretation bias, self-evaluations) and interpersonal factors (e.g., social skills, peer interactions) in contributing to social anxiety (disorder) in adolescents. Although substantial progress has been made in discovering the causal and maintaining factors involved in the development of social anxiety disorder we still do not fully understand how these factors interact and the potentially very individual developmental pathways involved. Moreover, of all anxiety disorders, social anxiety disorder is the most difficult to treat in adolescents, hence new techniques to ameliorate social anxiety are required.

Using a variety of assessments and instruments, such as the Leiden Public Speaking Task (Leiden-PST; Westenberg et al., 2009) and the Adolescents Interpretation and Belief Questionnaire (AIBQ: Miers et al., 2008), different statistical techniques such as latent class growth modelling and network analysis, new insights into the development and prevention of social anxiety (disorder) are sought.

  • 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. https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.janxdis.2014.09.008
  • 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, 97-110. DOI: 10.1007/s10802-012-9651-6
  • Spence, S. H. & Rapee, R. M. (2016). The etiology of social anxiety disorder: An evidence-based model. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 86, 50-67. https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2016.06.007


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