After discussing the background, retrospective, cross-sectional and longitudinal studies of behavioral inhibition (BI) I feel that it is necessary to summarize the findings.
Overall, early inhibited temperament occurs in about 15% of Caucasian children and is characterized by shyness in novel social or non-social situations. Retrospective reports and longitudinal studies have shown that it is persistent from infancy through childhood and into adolescence.
BI has also been found to predict the development of anxiety disorders, including social phobia. Although an association appears to exist between BI and anxiety disorders, psychosocial factors which are commonly related to anxiety disorder, do not appear to be related to BI. BI therefore appears to represent a constitutional vulnerability in the development of social anxiety.
The mother-child relationship is thought to be of particular importance in the intergenerational anxiety. Like behavioral inhibition, that has been extensively invested for its importance in the development of anxiety disorders, the attachment style between a mother and child has been examined. Attachment is the emotional bond which forms between two people (typically an infant and their mother). Infant attachment style develops based on mothers’ ability to respond to their infants’ needs in situations where their infant may feel vulnerable or threatened.
Additionally, mothers’ general ability to provide a secure base, whereby the infant feels secure in their own ability to be independent and that their mother will be available if needed, plays an important role in the development of attachment (Bowlby, 1973). Over the next several weeks I will divulge the importance of attachment and its possible link to the development of anxiety in children.
- Bowlby, J. (1973). Attachment and loss: Volume II. Separation. New York: Basic Books.