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Shy children benefit from parental affection

Shyness includes feelings of unease when faced with novel or unfamiliar social situations. This article provides research-based insights on shyness in children and shares tips how to help shy children. Previous research has suggested that shy children benefit from a different kind of parenting than other children. In this study, the authors explore the effects of parenting behaviors on children’s prosocial behaviors for shy and non-shy children.

 Prosocial behaviors and shyness

Prosocial behaviors are a range of helpful and supportive behaviors, for example sharing toys with other children and congratulating others when good things happen to them. The development of prosocial behaviors begins early in infancy and continues to develop throughout childhood. Previous research has found that shy children have more difficulty with prosocial behaviors, because shy children tend to avoid social interaction with peers due to fear and anxiety.

 The role of parental affection

Parents play an important role in children’s social and emotional development. Parental affection includes warm, responsive and supportive parental behaviors. Parental warmth and affection could support children’s prosocial behaviors, because these behaviors provide children with feelings of security and trust, which increase children’s empathy and decrease their self-concern.

 Shy children benefit from high parental affection

This study examined the effects of children’s shyness and parental affection on children’s prosocial behavior between 4 and 9 years old. The results showed that:

  • High parental affection was related with a high level of prosocial behaviors among both shy and non-shy children.
  • Only shy children had an increase in their prosocial behaviors from age 4 to 9 if their parents showed a high level of affection.

 Tips

  • Support your child and show affection. For example, tell your child that you appreciate what he or she is trying out and show your child that you love him or her.
  • Remember that parental affection is related to children’s development of prosocial behaviors, particularly among shy children. To help your shy child, try to encourage your child and provide opportunities for peer interactions.

 More information

Zarra-Nezhad, M., Moazami-Goodarzi, A., Nurmi, J. E., Eklund, K., Ahonen, T., & Aunola, K. (2018). Children’s Shyness Moderates the Associations between Parenting Behavior and the Development of Children’s Pro-Social Behaviors. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 1-11.

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