Karen R. Zeff

Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Douglas W. Nangle


The present study sought to investigate the ways in which social anxiety impedes the development of romantic relationships across adolescence. Previous research has demonstrated a natural progression for romantic associations during adolescence in which teens transition from same- to mixed-sex peer groups, and finally to dyadic relationships with romantic partners (Connolly, Furman, Konarski, 2000; Dunphy, 1963). This model of development was the basis for the present investigation. Social anxiety was examined in terms of how it impacted affiliations at the same- and mixed sex peer group levels, and ultimately the formation of romantic relationships. This project involved administering a series of questionnaires and rating scales to students enrolled in the 9th through \2l grades. Participants included 457 adolescents (196 males, 261 females) recruited from public high schools in the state of Maine. The questionnaires assessed social anxiety, peer acceptance, heterosocial competence, gender composition of adolescent peer networks, dating history, and relationship quality with significant others in the adolescent's life. Higher levels of social anxiety were expected to be associated with impairment at each of these three levels. Given the proposed developmental progression, the effects of anxiety were theorized to be most pronounced within the older cohort of adolescents. Moreover, gender was expected to affect the pattern of results. Social anxiety is most prevalent among females (LaGreca, 1998; LaGreca & Lopez, 1998), who are also thought to progress along the proposed developmental trajectory more quickly than their male counterparts. Therefore, social anxiety was expected to impact the females to a greater degree at each of the three levels. Correlation coefficients, multivariate analyses of variance, and regression analyses were used to evaluate the data. Overall, despite some discrepant findings, the results supported the hypotheses. Social anxiety was affiliated with problems in the same-sex peer group, the mixed-sex clique, and, for older adolescents, romantic relationships. As expected, social anxiety affected females the most at each level. There seems to be a maladaptive pathway that socially anxious teens are following that is markedly different than their non-anxious counterparts.