Asocial and afraid: An examination of shyness and anxiety in emerging adulthood


shyness, social withdrawal, relationship quality, identity, religious beliefs, gender, emerging adult


Shy emerging adults report greater internalizing behaviors and lower quality close relationships, but fewer externalizing behaviors (Nelson et al., 2008). Although multiple forms of children’s and adolescents' social withdrawal have been identified, such as social fearfulness and social disinterest (withdrawal, but no fear; e.g., Coplan & Rubin, 2010), less work has been done to examine emerging adults’ multiple forms of withdrawal. Therefore, we conducted an online study of emerging adults (N = 813) at five American colleges and universities (57% women; 73% European American), and identified 29 asocial, 57 shy, and a comparison group of 314 emerging adults. Results indicated that shy- anxious emerging adults experienced the worst levels of adjustment; thus, being shy and anxious may impede important developmental tasks ofemerging adulthood, such as settling on one’s religious beliefs, developing an identity, and developing quality relationships with others (peers and parents).

Original Publication Citation

Barry, C. M., Nelson, L. J., & *Christofferson, J. (2013). Asocial and afraid: An examination of shyness and anxiety in emerging adulthood. Journal of Family Studies, 19, 2-18.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Journal of Family Studies




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor