social withdrawal, shyness, unsocial, avoidant, media


An approach-avoidance model of social withdrawal (Asendorpf, 1990) identifies 3 types of social withdrawal including shyness, unsociability, and avoidance. Each appears to be uniquely associated with varying indicators of maladjustment in emerging adulthood (Nelson, 2013) but little, if any, work has been done to see how they might be linked to media use in the third decade of life. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine longitudinally the links between subtypes of social withdrawal, connective media (e.g., e-mail, social networking) and problematic (forms of media such as violent video games that, when used in high amounts, have been found to be linked to indices of maladjustment) media use, and internalizing and externalizing behaviors. The participants in the study (MAge 􏰀 20.70, SD 􏰀 1.98, range 􏰀 18–29 at Time 2) consisted of 204 undergraduate students (58% female) recruited from 2 large public universities in the United States who completed questionnaires at 2 points of time separated by 1 year. Results revealed that avoidant individuals use problematic forms of media more than average, unsociable, and shy individuals. Furthermore, problematic media use predicted more withdrawn behavior at Time 2 and mediated the relation between avoidance and externalizing behaviors over time. Few problems were found for unsociable behavior. The need to differentiate between multiple forms of withdrawal in emerging adulthood and their links with problematic forms of media and subsequent risk factors is discussed.

Original Publication Citation

Nelson, L. J., Coyne, S. M., *Howard, E*, & Clifford, B. N. (2016). Withdrawing to a virtual world: Associations between subtypes of withdrawal, media use, and maladjustment in emerging adults. Developmental Psychology, 52, 933-942.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

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Developmental Psychology




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor