Revisiting a taxonomy of social anxiety and assertiveness in adolescence: evidence for a cognitive approach

Abstract

This research explored a taxonomy combining social anxiety and assertiveness and further applied a cognitive approach for predicting those constructs in adolescents. Participants were 679 adolescents (mean age = 16.68; 61.3% female) who self-reported on interpersonal assertive schemas, negative automatic social thoughts, social anxiety, and assertive behavior. Social anxiety and assertive behavior were grouping variables in a cluster analysis, resulting in three groups: assertive, indifferent, and socially anxious adolescents. The moderator role of the groups was then studied within a structural equation model proposing both social anxiety and assertive behavior to be predicted by cognitive schemas and automatic thoughts. This model fitted all three groups, portraying assertive behavior as directly predicted by cognitive structures whereas social anxiety was directly dependent on automatic thoughts. Assertive deficit and social anxiety seem to co-occur and fit within a theoretical and practical cognitive approach, demanding careful consideration of specific symptomology in adolescent social anxiety.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Even though the items addressing the assertive interaction dimension resemble those used for assessing assertive performance (see Scale for Interpersonal Behavior below), this dimension was kept in the current work because it relates to an affective (and not a behavioral) aspect of the construct.

  2. 2.

    The observation and interaction dimensions were tested as higher order factors, composed by three and two first order factors, respectively, whereas the performance dimension was taken as a first order factor.

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Availability of Data and Material

The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Funding

The work was funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology under a doctoral fellowship grant awarded to the first author (SFRH/BD/29574/2006).

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Correspondence to Paula Vagos.

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All procedures performed in this study that involved human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the University of Coimbra and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The study was approved by the national ministry for education. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study and, for underage participants, from their parents and/or legal guardians.

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On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest. Though funding was received for this research it could not have influenced the outcomes of the research. The sponsor had no role in the design of the study, data collection, analysis and interpretation of data, writing of the report, and decision to submit the article for publication. This manuscript is based on data also used on the doctoral dissertation of the first author.

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Vagos, P., Pereira, A. Revisiting a taxonomy of social anxiety and assertiveness in adolescence: evidence for a cognitive approach. Curr Psychol (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-020-00823-z

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Keywords

  • Social anxiety
  • Assertiveness
  • Adolescence
  • Cognitive models
  • Structural equation modelling