A child’s social development rests largely on his interaction with family and peers. Socialization skills, more importantly, are a gauge a child’s way of dealing with different personalities and reacting to outside pressures.
According to Nancy Snidman, director of research at the Child Development unit at a children’s hospital in Boston, and Bernardo J. Carducci, professor of psychology from the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast, shyness can be detected as early as your child’s infant years.
Their “shyness spectrum” reveals that there are gradations when it comes to shyness. Normal shyness, for instance, affects as much as 40 percent of adults. They are whom we call “behaviorally uninhibited” - they have no difficulty dealing with new things and “soaking up stimulation”.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is where around 15 to 20 percent of babies fall under. They are “inhibited”; meaning they tend to react to stimulation; respond violently to exposure to unfamiliar things or people, and develop what is called social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, as they mature.
What distinguishes social anxiety disorder from shyness? While shyness can be defined as being timid or aloof, social anxiety disorder is when someone has an intense fear of social situations where they could potentially be humiliated or judged. This disorder manifests itself through physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, trembling, perspiring or blushing. Experts estimate that around five million Americans develop social anxiety disorder in a year.
In the event that your child shows signs of being introverted or shy, experts urge parents not to panic. A study (“Does shy – inhibited temperament in childhood lead to anxiety problems in adolescences?”, Prior M, April 2000) has shown that “most shy children did not develop an anxiety disorder and most adolescents with anxiety disorders had not been especially shy (as children).”