Shyness in early childhood increased the risk of anxiety disorders in adults

Children who are afraid of unfamiliar things, people and situations at the age of 14 months, grew cautious, withdrawn and prone to anxiety disorders. To find out, more than 150 people were tested three times within 25 years. Scientists have also determined that the risk of anxiety and depression in people who were shy in childhood, it is possible to estimate the sensitivity to errors in the electroencephalogram during adolescence. Article published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Some children are especially wary of unfamiliar objects and situations, afraid of everything new and avoid strangers — it’s called behavioral inhibition. This concept is close to shyness, but is shown not only to people but also to objects such as toys. From the shy kids in the four to six times increased risk of developing anxiety, they are more difficult to establish social contact and to show emotion.

Long-term effects of temperament of infant on his life we know little. Only two studies were able to trace the development of children with behavioral inhibition within one or two decades. When they become adults, they have increased the risk of depression, it was harder to find a job or partner. These observations were a number of limitations: they were started when the children were three to six years, and behavioral inhibition was assessed using subjective surveys of parents or teachers. In addition, the studies did not analyze the neurophysiological processes of the participants.

The American scientists under the leadership of Alva Tang (Tang Alva) at the University of Maryland, College Park conducted laboratory tests of behavioral inhibition have 165 children at the age of 14 months. Children were introduced to new people or toys and watched their reaction. When the study participants reached age 15, they have recorded the EEG during the execution of a test on attention and cognitive control (flanking problem). Finally, at the age of 26 years, the same people filled out the questionnaire on personality, social relations and anxiety levels.

The people, the level of behavioral inhibition which were high in early childhood, became more moderate (p < 0.001), less contact with friends and family (p = 0,021), and were more prone to depression and anxiety (p = 0.037). Shyness in childhood was not associated with education or career of study participants.

On the electroencephalogram of teenagers who as a child showed behavioral inhibition, analyzing the amplitude of the negative peak associated with the recognition error. It is correlated with a tendency to anxiety disorders in adulthood (p = 0,007). The parameter shows whether the person is sensitive to errors. It is possible to assess the risk of mental disorders in children with behavioral inhibition.

Not only the people of the events of the earlier age determine the character and behavior of adults. For example, the excessive care of the mother in the first weeks of life puppies are affected in their cognitive abilities and character throughout life. In particular, these animals have less chance to successfully pass the test for a guide dog.

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