Predictors of shy children's coping with a social conflict : mediators and moderators
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Shy children are at risk for later maladjustment due to ineffective coping with social conflicts through reliance on avoidance, rather than approach-focused, coping. The purpose of the present study was to explore whether the relation between shyness and children's coping was mediated by attributions and moderated by personality selftheories and gender. Participants included a classroom-based sample of 175 children (93 boys), aged 9-13 years (M = 10.11 years, SD = 0.92). Children completed self-report measures assessing shyness, attributions, personality self-theories and coping strategies. Results showed that negative attribution biases partially mediated the negative relations between shyness and social support seeking, as well as problem-solving, and the positive association between shyness and externalizing. Moreover, self-theories moderated the relation between shyness and internalizing coping at the trend level, such that the positive relation was exacerbated among entity-oriented children to a greater degree than incrementally-oriented children. In terms of gender differences, shyness was related to lower use of social support and problem-solving among incrementally-oriented boys and entity-oriented girls. Thus, shy children's perceptions of social conflicts as the outcome of an enduring trait (e.g., social incompetence) may partially explain why they do not act assertively and aggress as a means of social coping. Furthermore, entity-oriented beliefs may exacerbate shy children's reliance on internalizing actions, such as crying. Although an incrementally-oriented stance may enhance shy girls' reliance on approach strategies, it does not appear to serve the same protective role for shy boys. Therefore, copingoriented interventions may need to focus on restructuring shy children's social cognitions and implementing gender-specific programming for their personality biases.