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Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2001 Dec;24(4):661-75.

Bringing up bashful baby. Developmental pathways to social phobia.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA.


Shyness is a risk factor for, or an early manifestation of, more enduring problems with social anxiety. But the majority of shy children do not develop social phobia, and factors that further increase risk are poorly understood, underscoring the complexity of this relationship. Studies uniformly show that social phobia (particularly the generalized subtype) runs in families, and twin studies suggest that a moderate component of this familial tendency is genetic in origin. Understanding the genetic etiology of other neuropsychiatric disorders characterized by abnormal social interest, social communication (e.g., autism), or both may prove informative for social phobia. The contribution of unique experiences to the development of social phobia is clear from genetic studies, but studies to date have failed to elucidate what kinds of experiences might be involved. Given patient reports that socially traumatic conditioning experiences have often occurred, detailed evaluation of these kinds of experiences in monozygotic twins discordant for social phobia would be a particularly informative research strategy. Nongenetic familial factors probably have more limited effects on the development of social phobia, although the impact of parental modeling of, and acquiescence to, childhood social fears deserves to be further investigated. These factors may be particularly salient for the expression of social phobia in children whose genes render them susceptible. If so, it should be possible to design early interventions to prevent the progression from phobia proneness (e.g., designated on the basis of family history) to phobic disorder.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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