Social Anxiety in Children May be Due to Low and Advanced Emotional Intelligence
Socially anxious children can be both low and advanced on
emotional intelligence, according to researchers at University of Amsterdam.
The researchers pointed out that from early childhood, children are motivated to bond with others. However, for socially anxious children, emotional intelligence (EI)may be one of the most important competencies to acquire. Either socially anxious children lack EI or has too much of it. The findings are based on an analysis of children in the age group of 8-12 who were asked about their social anxiety levels. Their parents were also involved in the study.
The researchers then examined the children’s emotional intelligence by assessing their ability to read others’ emotions (known as mind reading) by using the Reading the Mind in the Eye Test (RMET). With this test, the team was able to see how accurate children are at recognising the mental states of others based on photographs of the eye region of different people’s faces. Finally, children were asked to sing a song on stage while being observed by a small audience. During their performance, the researchers measured their blushing, an index of public self-consciousness.
The results showed that both low and advanced emotional intelligence are related to childhood social anxiety. ‘We discovered that children with clinical levels of social anxiety tend to have low emotional intelligence, while children with above average emotional intelligence tend to have sub-clinical levels of social anxiety, but only when they are highly self-conscious as a result of being exposed to the judgment of others’, says Dr Milica Nikolić, post-doctoral researcher of Developmental Psychopathology at the UvA and lead author of the study. ‘This suggests that, contrary to the two opposing views, both low and high emotional intelligence can be a characteristic of socially anxious children.’
Intervention strategies for both groups
The team’s findings have important clinical implications for intervention efforts targeting social anxiety in children. ‘It must be noted that whereas children with a decreased ability to mindread may be at risk of developing social anxiety disorder, whereas those with advanced mindreading abilities may also develop high levels of social anxiety if they are also highly self-conscious’, says Nikolić. ‘Both of these disturbances in socio-cognitive abilities may have an impact on children’s social functioning in everyday life, leading them to fear and avoid social situations.’