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J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2009 Sep;48(9):928-35. doi: 10.1097/CHI.0b013e3181ae09df.

Stable early maternal report of behavioral inhibition predicts lifetime social anxiety disorder in adolescence.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA.



Behavioral inhibition (BI), a temperamental style identifiable in early childhood, is considered a risk factor for the development of anxiety disorders, particularly social anxiety disorder (SAD). However, few studies examining this question have evaluated the stability of BI across multiple developmental time points and followed participants into adolescence-the developmental period during which risk for SAD onset is at its peak. The current study used a prospective longitudinal design to determine whether stable early BI predicted the presence of psychiatric disorders and continuous levels of social anxiety in adolescents. It was hypothesized that stable BI would predict the presence of adolescent psychiatric diagnoses, specifically SAD.


Participants included 126 adolescents aged 14 to 16 years who were first recruited at 4 months of age from hospital birth records. Temperament was measured at multiple time points between the ages of 14 months and 7 years. In adolescence, diagnostic interviews were conducted with parents and adolescents, and continuous measures of adolescent- and parent-reported social anxiety were collected.


Stable maternal-reported early BI was associated with 3.79 times increased odds of a lifetime SAD diagnosis, but not other diagnoses, during adolescence (95% confidence interval 1.18-12.12). Stable maternal-reported early BI also predicted independent adolescent and parent ratings of ongoing social anxiety symptoms.


Findings suggesting that stable maternal-reported early BI predicts lifetime SAD have important implications for the early identification and prevention of SAD.

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