Social Anxiety and School Refusal in Adolescence
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One of the key vulnerabilities in adolescence is social anxiety, defined as an extreme fear for the opinions of others and the avoidance of social situations. In some ways, this development can be seen as a healthy and normal transition where adolescents eventually learn to cope with social fears and become adults with mature social goals. Yet, for some adolescents social anxiety is so prevalent that it has severe social and psychological consequences.
When and how social anxiety develops and how it can go astray is the core focus of our research program. We target this question using a unique approach; we investigate how and when the maturation of behavior and brain function is related to genes versus environment in a socially complex and changing world.
A special focus of this research is on school refusal, an extreme form of social avoidance behavior with direct implications for education and health programs. School refusal may be related to social anxiety, depression, or other forms of psychopathology. We have developed a new treatment protocol to help troubled young people to attend school regularly and return to a normal developmental pathway – a path along which they can succeed academically and do well emotionally and socially.