Researchers have recognized that social withdrawal in early childhood is a complex and multifaceted construct which includes three main observed subtypes: reticence, solitary-passive withdrawal, and solitary-active withdrawal. Each is differentially associated with children's behavioral outcomes in Western societies (e.g., United States, Canada). Furthermore, potential gender differences may exist regarding the distinct associations between non-social behavior and indices of maladjustment across boys and girls due to differential societal and cultural gender-role expectations. Previous studies suggest that subtypes of observed social withdrawal can be identified in Chinese preschoolers. It is important to examine the behavioral correlates of observed withdrawn subtypes in the Chinese cultural context due to the social-cultural variations in what is considered as socially acceptable/adaptable behaviors between North America and China. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the various behavioral correlates of different forms of nonsocial play among Chinese preschoolers and potential gender differences in the linkages. Teachers of 506 preschoolers from two cities in mainland China completed a battery of questionnaires that assessed various aspects of child behavioral outcomes in early childhood, including social withdrawal, assertiveness-prosociability, aggression, impulsive/disruptive behaviors, and anxiousness. Measurement models estimated with two-group confirmatory factor analyses yielded invariant factor structures for boys and girls for each of the behavioral measures. Distinct patterns of associations were found among behavioral correlates of subtypes of observed social withdrawal across boys and girls. Solitary-passive play was negatively associated with prosocial behaviors for girls and boys, positively related to impulsive behaviors for girls and boys, and negatively associated with victimization and anxious behavior for girls, but not boys. Solitary-active play was found to be negatively related to prosocial behaviors, positively associated with physical aggression, victimization, impulsive, and anxious behavior for girls and boys. Reticence was associated with less prosocial behavior for boys and girls. It was also positively associated with victimization, impulsiveness, and anxious behaviors for girls (but not boys). These gender difference findings and their implications for child adjustment in the Chinese cultural context are discussed.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Family Life; Marriage, Family, and Human Development



Date Submitted


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social withdrawal, behavioral correlates, Chinese preschoolers