Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 1196–1205 | Cite as

Shyness, Unsociability, and Socio-Emotional Functioning at Preschool: The Protective Role of Peer Acceptance

  • Stefania Sette
  • Federica Zava
  • Emma Baumgartner
  • Roberto Baiocco
  • Robert J. Coplan
Original Paper


In present study, we examined the protective role of peer acceptance in the links between two subtypes of social withdrawal (shyness, unsociability) and indices of young children’s socio-emotional functioning. Participants were N = 112 Italian preschool children (n = 54 boys) aged 36–74 months (M = 56.85 months, SD = 10.14). Multi-source assessments included: (1) parental ratings of children’s shyness and unsociability; (2) teacher ratings of children’s internalizing problems, externalizing problems, and social competence; (3) child interview assessments of preference for solitary play; and (4) peer (sociometric) ratings of peer acceptance. Among the results, shyness was associated with internalizing problems at preschool, whereas unsociability was related to a preference for solitary play. In addition, results from multiple regression analyses indicated significant interactions between peer acceptance and both shyness and unsociability in the association with indices of socio-emotional functioning. For example, at lower levels of peer acceptance, shyness was positively related to children’s preference for solitary play, whereas children’s unsociability was associated with externalizing problems. In contrast, these relations were attenuated at higher levels of peer acceptance. Findings are discussed in term of the potential protective role of young children’s peer acceptance for different subtypes of social withdrawal during early childhood.


Shyness Unsociability Peer acceptance Preference for solitary play Preschoolers 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

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


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stefania Sette
    • 1
  • Federica Zava
    • 1
  • Emma Baumgartner
    • 1
  • Roberto Baiocco
    • 1
  • Robert J. Coplan
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Developmental and Social PsychologySapienza UniversityRomeItaly
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada

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