Childhood inhibition predicts adolescent social anxiety: Findings from a longitudinal twin study

Dev Psychopathol. 2022 Oct 14:1-20. doi: 10.1017/S0954579422000864. Online ahead of print.


An enduring issue in the study of mental health is identifying developmental processes that explain how childhood characteristics progress to maladaptive forms. We examine the role that behavioral inhibition (BI) has on social anxiety (SA) during adolescence in 868 families of twins assessed at ages 8, 13, and 15 years. Multimodal assessments of BI and SA were completed at each phase, with additional measures (e.g., parenting stress) for parents and twins. Analyses were conducted in several steps: first, we used a cross-lagged panel model to demonstrate bidirectional paths between BI and SA; second a biometric Cholesky decomposition showed that both genetic and environmental influences on childhood BI also affect adolescent SA; next, multilevel phenotypic models tested moderation effects between BI and SA. We tested seven potential moderators of the BI to SA prediction in individual models and included only those that emerged as significant in a final conditional model examining predictors of SA. Though several main effects emerged as significant, only parenting stress had a significant interaction with BI to predict SA, highlighting the importance of environmental moderators in models examining temperamental effects on later psychological symptoms. This comprehensive assessment continues to build the prototype for such developmental psychopathology models.

Keywords: behavior inhibition; genetics; parenting; social anxiety; twins.