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A transactional analysis of early childhood anxiety and social withdrawal

  • Peter J. LaFrenière (a1) and Jean E. Dumas (a2)

The Preschool Socio-affective Profile, an 80-item teacher rating scale, was used to classify 126 French-Canadian children into three equal groups: socially competent (SC), average (AV), and anxious-withdrawn (AW). Mother-child interactions during a problem-solving task were observed. Base rates and conditional probabilities were calculated to assess the extent to which subjects responded contingently to each other's behaviors and affect. Children in all three groups exhibited a high degree of positive and negative reciprocity. SC children expressed more positive affect than AV or AW children and were more cooperative than AW children, who expressed more negative affect than either the SC or AV children. Mothers of the SC children displayed more positive behaviors and affect, were more contingent, and were more coherent in their discipline than all other mothers. Mothers of AV children were both less reciprocal with their child and less coherent than SC mothers. Failing to reciprocate positive affect or behavior, AW mothers engaged in a high degree of negative reciprocity and superfluous control and were aversive in response to compliance and noncompliance. These results are discussed from a developmental, transactional perspective, and their implications for an intervention strategy are considered.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence to: Peter J. LaFrenière, École de Psycho-Education, University of Montréal, 750 Boulevard Gouin Est, Montréal, H2C 1A6, Canada, or Jean E. Dumas, Department of Psychological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA.
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Development and Psychopathology
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