A Longitudinal Study of Social Anxiety and Social Self-Perception: Application of Latent Difference Score Approach
Purpose: The study aimed to advance our understanding of the development of social anxiety—with particular attention to two subtypes of social anxiety: humiliation and performance anxiety—and self-perception in social domain. First, the study investigated the effect of child maltreatment on the longitudinal trajectories of social anxiety and social self-perception. Then, the study investigated causal dynamics between social anxiety and social self-perception over time to determine whether social self-perception is a leading developmental factor influencing changes in social anxiety or vice versa.
Method: Participants were from a federally funded longitudinal study of child maltreatment in urban adolescents. The ethnically diverse sample consisted of 303 maltreated and 150 non-maltreated adolescents who were 9 to 12 at Time 1. Participants were assessed three times with 1-1.5 year time interval. Maltreated children were recruited from active cases in the Los Angeles County Department of Family Services and the demographically similar comparison sample was recruited from the same zip-codes. Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children (March, Parker, Sullivan, Stallings, & Conners, 1997) and Self-Perception Profile for Adolescents (Harter, 1998) were used. The study employed latent growth curve and multivariate latent difference score approaches. The three waves of data were re-structured based on participants’ age, and age was used as the axis of change instead of wave, estimating the developmental trajectories from age 9 to 16.
Results: The results of latent growth curve analyses showed that humiliation anxiety and performance anxiety decreased and social self-perception increased with age, but there was no significant difference in the developmental trend of social anxiety between the maltreated and the comparison. Smaller sample size in the tails of the data distribution may have resulted in non-significant individual variations and this may have influenced the result. The results from the multivariate latent difference score analyses revealed that social self-perception does not influence change in humiliation anxiety but supported that social self-perception is a developmental leading factor influencing change in performance anxiety. This result suggests the etiological mechanism of humiliation anxiety differs from that of performance anxiety regarding their relationships with self-perception
Implications: This study serves as an important step in beginning to elucidate causal dynamics between social anxiety and social self-perception and contributes to the advancement of our knowledge on social anxiety subtypes and etiological mechanism associated with each specific subtype. This finding suggests that different theoretical frameworks are needed to understand etiological mechanism of humiliation and performance anxiety and to develop effective intervening strategies for each subtype of social anxiety.