Revisiting Associations Between Behavioral Inhibition/Shyness and Social Competence in Young Chinese Children: Sociohistorical Imprint on Three Samples

Shuyang Dong, Yue Song, Judith Semon Dubas, Nanhua Cheng, Xi Liang, Qiqi Yuan, Zhengyan Wang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

While negative associations between behavioral inhibition/shyness and social competence are well established for children from Western cultures, the directions of these associations have been inconsistent for Chinese children, partly due to the ongoing social-cultural changes in China. Drawing from three samples of young Chinese children (born between 2009 and 2019), we aim at examining how inhibition/shyness predicts cooperative behaviors and prosocial behaviors throughout early childhood. In Study 1 (N = 700, children aged between 36 and 72 months), mother-reported inhibition/shyness was negatively associated with mother-reported cooperative and prosocial behaviors during the preschool years. In Study 2 (N = 251, at 6, 15, 25, and 37 months of children’s ages), mother-reported inhibition/shyness in infancy was negatively associated with mother-reported cooperative behaviors but was not related to observed cooperative behaviors at the early preschool age. Infancy inhibition/shyness was negatively associated with mother-reported and observed prosocial behaviors. In Study 3 (N = 95, at 14, 25, 38, and 60 months of children’s ages), the inhibition/shyness trait, assessed by both observation and maternal report, did not predict any indicators of cooperative behaviors. Early childhood inhibition/shyness, however, still predicted fewer observed and mother-reported prosocial behaviors. On balance, our research supports a negative association between early inhibition/shyness and later prosocial behaviors. The mixed findings concerning cooperative behaviors are interpreted in light of sociopolitical changes in China during the past two decades.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)978–989
Number of pages12
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Volume60
Issue number5
Early online date21 Mar 2024
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2024

Keywords

  • behavioral inhibition
  • cooperative behaviors
  • prosocial behaviors
  • shyness
  • social changes

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