Social inhibition may promote emotional problems in children, but little is known about this disposition in adults. Our research builds on a theory-based model to suggest that adult social inhibition involves distinct behavioral (inhibition), cognitive (sensitivity), and affective (withdrawal) characteristics.
A total of 1385 adults completed measures of social inhibition, emotional distress, and social stress. Factor analyses, reliability estimates and regression analyses were used to examine the robustness of our model, and the validity of the 15-item Social Inhibition Questionnaire (SIQ15).
In Study 1 (N=1180; M-age 46.9 years; 52% women), factor analysis confirmed that behavioral inhibition, interpersonal sensitivity, and social withdrawal reflected distinct facets of social inhibition. Next, we developed the SIQ15 that covers these facets with 5 items each; e.g. has difficulty making contact; expects negative reactions from others; keeps others at a distance. Study 2 (N=209; M-age 20.3 years; 77% women) showed that the SIQ15 and its 5-item Inhibition, Sensitivity and Withdrawal facet scales were internally consistent (Cronbach's a between 0.86/0.94) and stable over time (test-retest between r=0.73/0.78). The SIQ15 facets differentially predicted related inhibition (Behavioral Inhibition Scale), rumination (Penn State Worry Questionnaire) and withdrawal (Personality Inventory for DSM-5) scores at 6 months follow-up. Younger age and having no partner were associated with more social inhibition.
Findings are based on self-report; experimental and prospective studies are needed to further validate our inhibition model.
Inhibition, sensitivity, and withdrawal are distinct manifestations of adult social inhibition that can be reliably assessed with the SIQ15. Research needs to examine how this multidimensional nature of social inhibition has an effect on stress, health, and wellbeing.
- ANXIETY DISORDER
- D PERSONALITY
- EMOTIONAL RESPONSES
- EVALUATIVE THREAT
- Health outcomes
- INTERPERSONAL SENSITIVITY
- Internalizing problems
- NEGATIVE AFFECTIVITY
- Social inhibition