Social phobia (SP) is one of the most common anxiety problems that American adults suffer from. Anxiety in general, and SP in particular, usually first develop during early adolescence and are more common in children who struggle with inhibition and extreme shyness. This can cause these already emotionally fragile children to withdraw from social settings, including parties, sports, and other activities that involve performing or speaking in front of others. Children with early anxiety and SP are more likely to experience psychological problems than their peers and are at increased risk for later substance misuse. Adults who suffered with SP as children often continue to have difficulties in social settings and exhibit poor relationship skills and psychological well-being as a result of their anxiety. Identifying SP in childhood, therefore, is critical to healthy social adjustment throughout the teen years and beyond.
The most common tools used to assess childhood SP in the United States are the Social Phobia and Anxiety Inventory for Children (SPAI-C) and the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders (SCARED) questionnaire. However, the validity of these measurements has not been tested thoroughly in European populations. In an effort to determine if the SPAI-C and SCARED would serve as accurate screening tools for Italian children with SP, Anna Ogliari of The Academic Centre for the Study of Behavioral Plasticity at Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Italy used both tools to assess 228 children from elementary schools in Milan. She found that the results from the Italian version of the measurements were similar to those from other European samples. Specifically, Ogliari discovered that girls were more likely to have SP than boys, and together, they represented 7% to 14.4% of the participants, which was in line with other studies. Ogliari added, “Although these figures may be inflated by false positives, school-wide social anxiety screenings may be useful as a first step to identify children in need of further assessment and intervention.”
Ogliari, A., Scaini, S., Kofler, M. J., Lampis, V., Zanoni, A., Pesenti-Gritti, P., Spatola, C. A. M., Battaglia, M., Beidel, D. C. Psychometric Properties of the Social Phobia and Anxiety Inventory for Children (SPAI-C): A Sample of Italian School-aged Children from the General Population. European Journal of Psychological Assessment 28.1 (2012): 51-59. Print.
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