Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Relationship between Shyness and Loneliness among Chinese Adolescents: Social Support as Mediator

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Relationship between Shyness and Loneliness among Chinese Adolescents: Social Support as Mediator

Article excerpt

Loneliness can be defined as the distressing feeling that accompanies discrepancies between one's desired and actual social relationships (Weiner & Craighead, 2010). This is a common and negative emotional experience (Jackson, Soderlind, & Weiss, 2000; Zhao, Kong, & Wang, 2012). Indeed, empirical findings have linked loneliness to poor mental health and risk-taking behavior (Golub et al., 2010; Yao & Zhong, 2014; Zhao et al., 2012), and a substantial number of researchers have identified predictors of loneliness (Jackson, Fritch, Nagasaka, & Gunderson, 2002; Jackson et al., 2000; Zhao et al., 2012; Zhao, Kong, & Wang, 2013). In addition, shyness has been found to be positively related to loneliness (Jackson et al., 2000; Jackson et al., 2002; Zhao et al., 2012, 2013).

Shyness has been defined as feeling anxious and uncomfortable in social situations in which behavioral inhibition is exhibited (Colonnesi, Napoleone, & Bögels, 2014; Zhao et al., 2013). As a tendency to avoid social interaction, shyness is a protective mechanism to help people avoid social disapproval (Jackson et al., 2002). In general, people want to present themselves in a socially desirable manner to gain social approval (Jackson et al., 2002). However, shy people are unwilling to interact socially because of their fear of a lack of social competence and being rejected by others (Jackson et al., 2002).

A protective self-presentation style is also demonstrated in lonely individuals (Jackson et al., 2002). Indeed, loneliness is an inherently interpersonal emotion (Segrin, Nevarez, Arroyo, & Harwood, 2012), developing from thoughts or events that signify people's acceptance and rejection by others (Leary, Koch, & Hechenbleikner, 2001). Lonely people may expect more interpersonal rejection and they often hold a negative self-view that they are less socially competent than their peers (Jackson et al., 2002). This reinforces their expectation of being rejected by others (Leary et al., 2001). As a result, lonely people tend to adopt a protective self-presentation strategy to avoid social disapproval (Jackson et al., 2002).

In Eastern cultures, a strong emphasis is placed on the concept of social harmony. Overt and strict social standards exist in collectivistic countries to prevent people's behavior deviating from the defined social norms (Hofmann, Asnaani, & Hinton, 2010). In this regard, individuals with collectivistic cultural backgrounds should show a greater fear of being evaluated by others than do those in noncollectivistic cultures, because they may question whether or not their attitudes or behavior meet societal standards (Hofmann et al., 2010). As a result, shyness is viewed as less problematic in collectivistic cultures (Margalit, 2010), as the protective self-presentation style of shyness may help people avoid social disapproval in regard to their attitudes or behavior. However, it appears that neglecting the downside of shyness in collectivistic countries tends to have a profound and subtle impact on people. For example, shyness and loneliness are important reasons for adolescents' Internet addiction. Indeed, compared with American adolescents, Chinese adolescents reported a higher level of shyness, and greater shyness strongly predicted the use of social networking sites (Jackson & Wang, 2013). Further, Chinese adolescents reporting higher levels of shyness had difficulties in academic adjustment (Liu et al., 2015). Therefore, our investigation of the relationship between shyness and loneliness in a collectivistic cultural context, and, in particular, exploring the mechanisms that explain this association, is helpful.

The features of the protective self-presentation style are highly correlated with reduced social support. Researchers have found that shy people's self-perceived deficit in social competence and negative self-views of lack of interpersonal skills predicted a reduction in social support, and that the lack of social support reinforced the experience of loneliness among shy individuals (Jackson et al. …

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