Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 48, Issue 4, pp 717–730 | Cite as

Social Withdrawal and Social Surrogacy in Emerging Adulthood

  • Leanna M. ClossonEmail author
  • Alicia McVarnock
  • Kellie Sanford
Empirical Research


Shyness has been well established as a hindrance to social adjustment and may be problematic for emerging adults attending university, given the high social expectations placed upon students. Previous studies suggest emerging adults high in shyness recruit their friends to act as social surrogates in order to help reduce the stress of entering social interactions; yet, whether other less studied forms of social withdrawal (i.e., avoidance, unsociability) are associated with social surrogacy remains uninvestigated. The goal of the present study was to examine differences between subtypes of withdrawal as related to social surrogacy, while considering the roles of social anxiety and social self-efficacy. Participants were 961 emerging adults (76% female; 67% Caucasian) between the ages of 18 and 25 (M = 20.15, SD = 1.71). The results indicated that patterns of social surrogacy varied between withdrawal subtypes, such that social surrogacy was positively related to shyness, and negatively related to unsociability, whereas avoidance yielded mixed results. The findings highlight the importance of considering withdrawal motivations in understanding social surrogacy.


Social surrogacy Social withdrawal Shyness Social anxiety Social self-efficacy Emerging adulthood 


Authors’ Contributions

LC conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, performed the statistical analysis, interpreted the data, and drafted the manuscript. AM participated in the design and coordination of the study, interpreted the data, and drafted the manuscript. KS participated in the design and coordination of the study, and helped to interpret the data and draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


The authors did not receive funding to support this research.

Data Sharing and Declaration

The dataset generated and analyzed during the current study are not publicly available but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

Ethics approval for this research was issued by the Saint Mary’s University Research Ethics Board (SMU REB file number: 17-046).

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leanna M. Closson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alicia McVarnock
    • 1
  • Kellie Sanford
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologySaint Mary’s UniversityHalifaxCanada

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