INTRODUCTIONSocial anxiousness is something that most everyone deals with in some manner at different points in their life. We feel that one important time in our lives that we incur instances that may cause social anxiousness, on a daily if not on an hourly basis, is in the school years preceding high school. These prepubescent years when we are becoming aware of not necessarily who we are, but rather that we are, are important. That is we exist in a bigger picture than just our family and "best" friends. We begin to realize that we belong to a society that judges us on how we act and react to the imagined pressures placed on us to perform to the standards that are set by our peers and those we encounter in every situation we come upon.
First we must operationally define the two groups we are addressing. The first is traditionally schooled. By traditionally schooled we mean students that leave their homes in the morning and go to a school where they are put into classrooms with other children of the same approximate age. These kids remain in school for most of the day, and then they go back to their home. Along with attending a school outside of the home there are the regular expected activities and interactions that are natural in this type of environment. Our next group is home schooled children. These children stay in the home for the entire day. They receive their schooling from a parent, usually the mother. They stay in the same room for all subjects and are taught by the same person for all subjects. Another key difference from traditionally schooled children is that these kids either receive their instructions by themselves, or in the presence of siblings if there are any.
The next term we need to define is socially anxious, this term is also known as socially phobic. On the face both imply that people who are socially anxious or phobic are people that aren`t comfortable or are scared in social situations. These situations can range from giving speeches in front of large crowds to asking a question aloud in a small room. The official definition of social phobia as given by the American Psychiatric Association in 1987 is as follows, " persistent fear of one or more situations in which the person is exposed to possible scrutiny by others and fears that he or she may do something or act in a way that will be humiliating or embarrassing." We can sum up social anxiousness as basically the same only not quite as excessive in the fear aspect. This might be someone who has some of the autonomic responses associated with anxiousness but can still proceed with the task, and may even become relaxed after a period of time. People who are socially phobic in many cases cannot start, let alone complete a task in which they are singled out in a social situation.
There has been some research done to see if social anxiousness is developed in the home, or whether there is a close tie to traumatic events in childhood in which case the home schooling would not make a difference as long as the issue was addressed in both environments. Research by Stemberger, Turner, and Calhoun (1995) showed that even with significant differences in family histories the amount of cases for social phobia and anxiousness are the same. The same research did find a significant difference in the amount of socially phobic children when comparing those having suffered a traumatic event to those not experiencing any type of extraordinary or traumatic event. This study points out that the occurrence of social phobia is a lot more prone to happen in children that have had a traumatic event and were shy by nature. We feel this is significant because there is a greater chance of having a child that is shy than one who has experienced a traumatic event. The study of the affects of a traumatic event is purely correlational thus there could be some interplay between the shyness and the event that is causing the social phobia not the two variables independently.
We`ve discussed that social anxiousness can be derived in the home, although not likely. Now we might mention that other current research indicates that we can help relieve social anxiousness through family members. Research by Barrett, Rapee, and Dadds (1996) states that in a study done to evaluate a procedure to help children with different types of social anxiousness, family management made a significant difference in the recovery of the children. Some of the children were subjected to cognitive behavioral therapy and some received the therapy plus family management. While the CBT was affective the CBT plus family management helped almost 96% of the children over a twelve-month period.
While long term therapy would seem to be quite helpful, some systems and lifestyles do not permit such a large amount of dedication. Current science has afforded people that are afflicted with social anxiety with an alternative treatment. A paper by Lydiard, Brawman, and Ballenger (1996) gives an overview of current psychopharmacological developments of drugs designed to treat social anxiousness. The most deeply researched drug being used to treat social phobia is MAOI phenelzine. Research has found that up to 65% of patients suffering from different types of social phobia show significant improvements when using this drug. There are a number of other drugs, such as, benzodiazopines, selective serotonin reputake inhibitors, and beta-adregenic blockers. None of these drugs have been proven to be as affective as the MAOI phenelzine.
We`ve discussed where children might develop social anxiousness and how we might be able to prevent or cure it, but we haven`t mentioned criteria we look at to determine who is suffering from it. Research by Beidel et al. (1996) looks at the SPAI-C, a test used to determine social phobia in children. SPAI-C stands for social phobia and anxiety inventory for children. The research done by Beidel has shown that this test is one of the best tools to use in determining social anxiousness in children. The test was shown to have construct, convergent, and discriminative validity. These were tested in a number of different ways but were found to be highly valid, especially when compared to other test of this nature.
In order for us to have the necessity to administer a test of this nature we must first see a reason to determine whether a child is suffering form social anxiousness. A study by Spence (1997) found that symptoms of social anxiousness do not usually appear alone. Often time theses are grouped and intermingled with symptoms for other problems. Things like separation anxiety, agoraphobia and obsessive-compulsive behavior are problems that have similar symptoms and can occur in concurrence with social anxiousness. What Spence found, for the most part, is that children suffering from this problem most generally display symptoms of general anxiousness. After close examination and testing we are then able to sort out whether the problem is social anxiousness or something else.
Once we`ve determined that a child has a problem with social anxiousness and have begun to take corrective steps in the home, and through other methods, we must look at another major aspect of the child`s life, school. Most social situations for children between the ages of 10 and 15 have some form of link with their schooling. Whether they are performing in a play in front of the entire school or at the mall with a parent, they are conscious of the people around them, who they might see or even worse who might see them. A study by Eccles et al. (1996) looks at the dynamic social environment that kids are in during middle school. She has found that often times there is a mismatch that takes place between what is expected at home and at school. She feels that it is this mismatch that causes excess anxiousness in children at school. She does say that a good match between home environment and school environment can lead to normal healthy levels of social anxiousness. Whether a somewhat shy child is given the opportunity to open up and be more comfortable around friends, or a rather outgoing child is given the direction to channel that same openness, school provides and environment for change. The problem occurs when the child is either not ready for change, or not ready to move at the same pace as the structured environment that traditional schooling allows for.
The participants we used were females between the ages of 10 and 14. Half of these females were children that are home schooled. We selected them from an area homeschooling group. The other half of our participants were from a group of traditionally schooled children. This group was matched according to sex, age, and race from a group of females in a local dance studio. Each group consisted of 10 participants.
We used one simple apparatus for evaluating social anxiety. This tool is a test of social anxiety obtained via the Internet from a site titled Queendom and written by Cyberia Shrink, who lists several credentials and numerous professional publications. The internet address is www.psychtests.com/soc_anx.html. The test in its original form was oriented toward adults, we did however reword the test to make it more applicable to children. The questionnaire is a fifteen-question task. These questions were answered with a Likert type scale. Some questions are reverse keyed.
All questions were given on a sheet of paper. All participants are capable of at least fifth grade reading ability. This ensures two things, one that there is little experimenter bias in the presentation of the questions, and secondly that all participants are capable of reading and understanding questions with little or no help from the person issuing the test.
The tests were administered in groups or individually. Participants that received the test in a group were not allowed to discuss items of the questionnaire during the administration. All participants receiving the test in groups were instructed to remain in place until everyone had finished in order not to influence others. After the questionnaire was collected it was scored. From these scores we did a t-test to compare the results of the entire home schooled group to that of the traditionally schooled c
We did an independent t-test comparing the mean social anxiety score of the traditionally schooled students to the mean social anxiety score of the home schooled students. There was not a significant difference between the two scores. t(18) =.670, p=.511. The home schooled students had a mean of 54.8 and the traditional schooled children had a mean score of 56.7. This indicates that there is not a statistically significant difference between the home schooled and traditionally schooled children with regard to social anxiety.
Our results indicate that the scores of the two groups were not significantly different. In fact, the anxiety scores were lower for the home schooled children than for the traditionally schooled children. Thus there is no support for our hypothesis that the traditionally schooled children would be less anxious.
The results of our research seem to somewhat contradict current literature. The research we have cited has given several examples of why traditionally schooled children might have less social anxiety than home schooled children. A closer look, however, points out that social anxiety could possibly be more easily tied to the home environment than the school environment. While the traditional school environment would appear to aid in social interaction the literature suggests that not only can the school environment not help in social interaction but may actually hinder it due to a mismatching of personalities and environmental situations.
Lack of control would be the key limit of this study. Subjects were matched according to age, sex and race but other factors could not be accounted for. While the test appears to have face validity some questions arise about the internal validity. The sample size for each group was small. This small sample size makes it hard to draw conclusions from non-significant results. The combination of these three variables lowers the amount of external validity of the study.
A larger sample size and a wider variety of participants would aid in the generalizability of the study. Future research would look at both sexes and a wider age range. Other research could include other suspected developmental differences between home schooled and traditionally schooled children. Another study could investigate personalities of the parents to look for differences that could be explaining the differences in the children.
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