Emotional Development in Atypical Children

By Michael Lewis; Margaret Wolan Sullivan | Go to book overview

ited at age 2 and were now uninhibited provided explanations of that change in their behavior. Many of the responses suggested that this change in their personal selves occurred as a function of parental caregiving behavior. For example, children reported that parents often slowly introduced their child to novel and mildly stressful events, providing them with the opportunity to experience these events within safe environments. This systematic desensitization seemed particularly successful for the inhibited toddlers. On the other hand, children who at age 2 had not seemed inhibited but who were now shy were more self-critical about their behavior than any of the other children. Their behavior seemed particularly associated with self-presentation within the social group.

The emergence of this self-conscious shyness among a group of children who were not necessarily inhibited as toddlers raises the issue first addressed by Buss ( 1984) in his dual theory of shyness. Buss proposed that there are two main forms of shyness: fearful shyness and self-conscious shyness. He maintained that fearful shyness, characterized by wariness and stranger anxiety, appears early in life, and that self-conscious shyness, discernable by feeling "conspicuous and psychologically unprotected," emerges later ( Buss, 1984). Crozier and Burnham ( 1990) suggested that the development of self-conscious shyness does not displace fearful shyness, but rather, emerges independently in the elementary school years. Thus, an older child can manifest both forms of the trait. Alternatively, self-conscious shyness could emerge as an outgrowth of fearful shyness exhibited during the infancy period. The fact that we identified a group of children who were not fearfully shy as toddlers but were self-consciously shy as elementary school children would argue that the two forms of shyness may be independent, at least in some individuals.

There are far too few studies that ask children to reflect on their social and emotional behaviors. In contrast, the study of theory of mind has seen a resurgence recently in an attempt to gain access to the reasoning strategies of children about the manner in which they solve problems. The current study might serve as an example of the means by which children's theory of mind regarding their personal selves may be explored. It may help produce an understanding of the manners in which the continuities and discontinuities in their social lives occur and are perceived by children during the developmental process.


ACKNOWLEDGMENT

The research reported on in this chapter was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (HD#17899) to Nathan A. Fox.

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