Anxious solitude and peer exclusion predict social helplessness, upset affect, and vagal regulation in response to behavioral rejection by a friend

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Heidi Gazelle, Assistant Professor (Creator)
Madelynn J. Druhen (Contributor)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:

Abstract: Competent social interaction requires adaptive responding to occasional social challenges—for instance, having a social invitation declined by a social partner. This investigation examined the propensity for anxious solitary children to respond adaptively or helplessly to an instance of perceived behavioral rejection by a friend. Although there is some support for the notion than anxious solitary children are more likely than other children to demonstrate social helplessness in the face of social challenge on average (Stewart & Rubin, 1995), this investigation goes beyond such between-group comparisons to examine heterogeneity among anxious solitary children. Consistent with a diathesis–stress perspective in which maladaptive functioning is expected to result when an individual with a vulnerability or diathesis (e.g., anxious solitude) encounters stress (e.g., peer difficulties; Biederman & Spencer, 1999), it is hypothesized that anxious solitary children who experience heightened peer stress (i.e., peer exclusion) in the course of their daily lives are most likely to respond to a social challenge in a helpless manner. This investigation examines not only which anxious solitary children are most likely to display social helplessness, but why. That is, processes that may mediate the relation between anxious solitude and social helplessness are examined. Specifically affective, social–cognitive, and regulatory processes are examined as potential mediators. It is expected that maladaptive processes are most likely to occur and to contribute to social helplessness in children who display the dual individual and interpersonal risks of anxious solitude and peer exclusion, whereas children who display a single risk (either an individual risk, such as anxious solitude, or an interpersonal risk, such as peer exclusion) were expected to display more modest difficulty in responding to social challenge.

Additional Information

Developmental Psychology, 45, 1077-1096. Digital Object Identifier: 10.1037/a0016165
Language: English
Date: 2009
social interaction, social challenges, behavioral rejection, diathesis, stress

Email this document to