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01-11-2013 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 11/2013

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 11/2013

Linking Social Anxiety and Adolescent Romantic Relationship Functioning: Indirect Effects and the Importance of Peers

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 11/2013
Karen R. Hebert, Jessica Fales, Douglas W. Nangle, Alison A. Papadakis, Rachel L. Grover


Peer relationships undergo dramatic shifts in form and function during adolescence, at the same time the incidence of socially evaluative fears sharply rises. Despite well-established links between social anxiety and broader interpersonal functioning, there is a dearth of research evaluating the impact of social anxiety on functioning in close relationships during this developmental stage. The present study examines the impact of social anxiety on functioning in close friendships and romantic relationships during adolescence. From a developmental psychopathology perspective, it was expected that social anxiety would influence functioning (quality, length, satisfaction) in romantic relationships through its influence on functioning in same- and other-sex friendships. Participants included 314 adolescents (60.5 % female, 14–19 years of age) with a prior or current history of romantic relationship involvement. Structural equation modeling was used to test a mediation model positing an indirect pathway from social anxiety to romantic relationship functioning through functioning in close same- and other-sex friendships. Given known gender differences in social anxiety and relationship functioning, gender also was explored as a potential moderator. Results supported the hypothesized indirect pathway whereby social anxiety was associated with impairment in same-sex friendships; functioning in same-sex friendships was associated with functioning in other-sex friendships, which was associated, in turn, with functioning in romantic relationships. While the hypothesized indirect pathway was significant among both boys and girls, there was greater continuity of functioning between same- and other-sex friendships for girls. These findings highlight the importance of examining the multiple downstream effects of social anxiety on perceived social functioning in adolescence, and suggest that continuity may exist for maladaptive patterns of socialization, particularly across developmentally salient close relationships.

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