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05-04-2015 | Original Article | Uitgave 1/2016 Open Access

Child Psychiatry & Human Development 1/2016

Children of Few Words: Relations Among Selective Mutism, Behavioral Inhibition, and (Social) Anxiety Symptoms in 3- to 6-Year-Olds

Tijdschrift:
Child Psychiatry & Human Development > Uitgave 1/2016
Auteurs:
Peter Muris, Eline Hendriks, Suili Bot

Abstract

Children with selective mutism (SM) fail to speak in specific public situations (e.g., school), despite speaking normally in other situations (e.g., at home). The current study explored the phenomenon of SM in a sample of 57 non-clinical children aged 3–6 years. Children performed two speech tasks to assess their absolute amount of spoken words, while their parents completed questionnaires for measuring children’s levels of SM, social anxiety and non-social anxiety symptoms as well as the temperament characteristic of behavioral inhibition. The results indicated that high levels of parent-reported SM were primarily associated with high levels of social anxiety symptoms. The number of spoken words was negatively related to behavioral inhibition: children with a more inhibited temperament used fewer words during the speech tasks. Future research is necessary to test whether the temperament characteristic of behavioral inhibition prompts children to speak less in novel social situations, and whether it is mainly social anxiety that turns this taciturnity into the psychopathology of SM.

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