ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2013, Vol. 45 ›› Issue (1): 70-81.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2013.00070

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Social Reticence in Chinese Children: Relations with Temperament and Social Adjustment

ZHANG Guangzhen;LIANG Zongbao;CHEN Huichang;CHEN Xinyin   

  1. (1 Learning Sicence Research Center / Key Laboratory of Child Development and Learning Science, Ministry of Education, Southeast University, Nanjing 210096, China) (2 Institute of Developmental Psychology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China) (3 Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvalia, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6216 USA)
  • Received:2012-02-16 Published:2013-01-25 Online:2013-01-25
  • Contact: ZHANG Guangzhen;LIANG Zongbao

Abstract: Children’s reticent behavior is associated with maladjustment in western countries, but with less problems in China, which indicated that its functional significance may be different in Chinese culture. Regardless of the general context, however, the adaptive meaning of social reticence may vary with age. The present study examined the relations between children’s reticent behavior and social adjustment from developmental perspective in China. The study also investigated the relations between children’s temperament (behavioral approach and inhibition and self-regulation) and reticent behavior. One hundred and thirty-two children were followed from age 2 to age 11 years. Initially, toddlers and their mothers were invited to visit university lab within 3 months of each toddler’s 2nd birthday. An adapted version of behavioral inhibition paradigm and two delay tasks were administered to measure children’s temperament. Behavioral approach and inhibition were coded on the basis of children’s behavior and emotion in three strange situations, and self regulation was coded on the basis of children’s delay behavior. These children were invited to the university laboratory in same-sex quartets to participate in follow-up studies at 7 and 11 years. The observational paradigm consisted of two free play sessions (each for 15 min) and a series of other sessions. Children’s reticent behavior was assessed on the basis of free-play sessions. Peer liking was assessed based on one-to-one interview after the observation. Teachers were also asked to rate children’s social adjustment in school. Results indicated that reticent behavior was concurrently not associated with social adjustment at age 7. However, it was negatively associated with peer liking and teacher-rated social competence and positively associated with internalizing problems and victimization at age 11. Children’s behavioral approach at age 2 significantly and negatively predicted children’s reticent behavior at age 7 and age 11. Self regulation moderated the relation between behavioral approach at age 2 and reticent behavior at age 11. Behavioral approach at age 2 was negatively associated with reticent behavior at age 11 for those low in self regulation, but for those high in self regulation. The findings show that the relations between social reticence and social adjustment may vary with age. Social reticence may have more detrimental effects on adjustment for preadolescents than for children. The findings also show that the relations between temperament and reticent behavior depend on the adaptive meaning of reticent behavior. In addition, self-regulation may moderate the relations between reticent behavior and adjustment.

Key words: social reticence, social adjustment, behavioral approach-inhibition, self regulation