In a manuscript entitled, “Bashful boys and coy girls: A review of gender differences in childhood shyness” Doey et al. (2013) suggest that shyness and its related constructs pose a greater developmental risk for boys compared to girls. They support this claim by citing empirical evidence suggesting that shy and anxiously withdrawn boys are responded to more negatively by important others (i.e., parents, peers, and teachers) and that the relationship between internalizing problems and anxious withdrawal is stronger for boys compared to girls. The principal aim of our commentary is to provide a critical examination of Doey et al.’s conclusions vis-à-vis gender differences in child and adolescent shyness. In this response, we begin by providing important theoretical background regarding shyness and its related constructs. Next, we critically examine the two main arguments the authors use in support of their conclusion through a review of existing empirical and theoretical work as well as the presentation of data from The Friendship Project. These data were analyzed with the specific purpose of providing an empirical test of the hypotheses implicit in Doey et al.’s primary arguments: 1) shy and anxiously withdrawn boys are responded to more negatively than girls and 2) the association between anxious withdrawal and internalizing problems is stronger for boys compared to girls. Our results indicate mixed support for these two claims. Finally, we conclude by suggesting new directions for future researchers interested in clarifying the relationship between gender and both the correlates and outcomes of childhood shyness.
Sex Roles – Springer Journals
Published: Feb 27, 2014
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