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14-11-2016 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 4/2017

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 4/2017

Neuroticism and Conscientiousness as Moderators of the Relation Between Social Withdrawal and Internalizing Problems in Adolescence

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 4/2017
Kelly A. Smith, Matthew G. Barstead, Kenneth H. Rubin


Social withdrawal, or refraining from social interaction in the presence of peers, places adolescents at risk of developing emotional problems like anxiety and depression. The personality traits of neuroticism and conscientiousness also relate to emotional difficulties. For example, high conscientiousness predicts lower incidence of anxiety disorders and depression, while high neuroticism relates to greater likelihood of these problems. Based on these associations, socially withdrawn adolescents high in conscientiousness or low in neuroticism were expected to have lower levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms. Participants included 103 adolescents (59 % female) who reported on their personality traits in 8th grade and their anxiety and depressive symptoms in 9th grade. Peer ratings of social withdrawal were collected within schools in 8th grade. A structural equation model revealed that 8th grade withdrawal positively predicted 9th grade anxiety and depressive symptoms controlling for 8th grade anxiety and depressive symptoms, but neuroticism did not. Conscientiousness moderated the relation of withdrawal with depressive symptoms but not anxiety, such that high levels of conscientiousness attenuated the association between withdrawal and depressive symptoms. This buffering effect may stem from the conceptual relation between conscientiousness and self-regulation. Conscientiousness did not, however, moderate the association between withdrawal and anxiety, which may be partly due to the role anxiety plays in driving withdrawal. Thus, a conscientious, well-regulated personality partially protects withdrawn adolescents from the increased risk of emotional difficulties.

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