ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2013, Vol. 45 ›› Issue (11): 1251-1260.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2013.01251

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Shyness and Loneliness: The Multiple Mediating Effects of Self-efficacy

LI Caina;DANG Jianning;HE Shanshan;LI Hongmei   

  1. (1 Department of Psychology, Key Laboratory of Modern Teaching Technology, Shaanxi Normal University, Xi’an 710062, China) (2 Department of Social Development, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200241, China)
  • Received:2013-01-14 Published:2013-11-25 Online:2013-11-25
  • Contact: DANG Jianning


Individuals are born with the need to interact with others and may do so in a variety of ways. Most have sufficient social skills to do so successfully. Some, however, suffer loneliness because they are shy. Shyness, often described as discomfort and behavioral inhibition in social interactions, has been shown to have detrimental effects on individuals’ social adaptation. Studies have shown that shyness coexists with negative emotions and is a robust predictor of loneliness. However, there has been little attention paid to the mediators explaining the relationship between shyness and loneliness. Self-report measurements support expectations of rejection and interpersonal incompetence. Social support, self-esteem and humor style were confirmed as mediators of the relationship. Additionally, self-efficacy appears to be the likely mechanism accounting for the indirect relationship between shyness and loneliness. Social cognitive theory postulates that self-efficacy, a person’s confidence in his or her ability to execute a course of action, plays a vital role in determining their psychosocial functioning. Shy people tended to report lower self-esteem in social interactions and have lower confidence in their ability to maintain a relationship, resulting in difficulty developing intimate relationships. Shy people are thus likely to have a greater sense of loneliness due to low self-efficacy in socioemotional domains. Studies have shown that shyness was closely related to lower regulatory emotional and social self-efficacy, fewer social interactions and greater feelings of loneliness. Regulatory emotional self-efficacy, a measure of an individuals' perceived capacity to form, maintain and inhibit emotion has always been regarded as a domain related form of the construct of self-efficacy. Social self-efficacy, which refers to an individual’s beliefs and confidence in their ability to establish and maintain a lasting relationship, is a related construct. Integrative model of self-efficacy postulates that self-efficacy is a multiple level concept, in which the more general self-efficacy would exert influence on individuals’ social behaviors directly and indirectly through more specific self-efficacy. In applying the model to this study we postulated that regulatory emotional self-efficacy may impact an individuals’ sense of loneliness both directly and indirectly by influencing self-efficacy in social interactions. The present study aimed to determine whether one's regulatory emotional self-efficacy and social self-efficacy would medicate the relationship between shyness and loneliness among Chinese adolescents. Seven hundred and seventy seven adolescents (346 girls) at grade 7-12 were randomly recruited from two middle schools in Shanxi, China. Adolescents’ shyness, affect self-regulation efficacy, social self-efficacy, and loneliness were assessed the Shyness Scale, the Regulatory Emotional Self-Efficacy Questionnaire the Social Self-Efficacy Questionnaire, and the UCLA Loneliness Scale. Structural equation model and bootstrapping analyses were utilized to test the hypothesized mediating model. Path analyses showed that shyness was positively associated with adolescents’ loneliness directly and indirectly through the mediation of regulatory emotional self-efficacy and social self-efficacy. Specifically, shyness was related to lower self-efficacy of expressing positive emotions and regulating negative emotions, then to lower social self-efficacy, and finally to higher loneliness. Moreover, self-efficacy of expressing positive emotions and regulating negative emotions was associated with loneliness to the same extent, but self-efficacy of expressing positive emotions displayed stronger association with social self-efficacy than did self-efficacy of regulating negative emotions. Shyness has great implications for loneliness due to lower regulatory emotional self-efficacy and social self-efficacy. Psychosocial interventions targeting at improving adolescents’ self-efficacy in socioemotional domains should be delivered to shy adolescents to eliminate or weaken the potential detrimental effects of shyness on loneliness.

Key words: shyness, loneliness, self-efficacy beliefs, multiple mediation effect