The Influence of Shyness on Language Assessment

J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2023 Sep 13;66(9):3588-3605. doi: 10.1044/2023_JSLHR-22-00362. Epub 2023 Aug 18.


Purpose: The goal of this study is to examine how shyness affects a child's performance on language assessments that vary in sociability. We hypothesized that accuracy on language tasks would be driven by shyness such that shyer children would perform better on nonsociable tasks compared to sociable tasks.

Method: The procedures followed a quasi-experimental design. One hundred twenty-two participants, ages 17-42 months and varying in their temperament, each underwent a series of three language tasks. The order of tasks was randomized, and each task varied in the social interaction required: a looking task, a pointing task, and a production task. Data were collected via Zoom, and parents reported their child's shyness level via the Early Child Behavior Questionnaire.

Results: Shyness was compared with participants' accuracy across the three tests while controlling for age and vocabulary percentile. There were significant differences in children's performance across the tasks, with respect to shyness. Shyer children performed worse on the production task compared to less shy children. All children did well on the pointing task regardless of shyness level, but performance was more nuanced on the looking task such that shyer children were at times more accurate but also less likely to respond in general.

Conclusions: As shown by these results, shyer and less shy children respond differentially to methods of language assessment that vary in sociability. It is important for clinicians to acknowledge shyness when choosing an appropriate assessment of children's language. Future direction includes assessing performance on standardized assessments.

Supplemental material:

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Behavior
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Parents
  • Shyness*
  • Temperament*