Shyness and social–emotional development among Chinese children: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Xinyi Zhang*, Carrie Lau, Yi Yang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Shyness, which is characterized by social withdrawal behaviours and approaching-withdrawal conflicted social motivations, is suggested to influence children's social–emotional development. This study examined the association between shyness and social–emotional development among Chinese children aged 3 to 12. A systematic search of both Chinese and international databases for relevant research between 1990 and 2020 yielded 23 studies (n = 9,009 children), which were systematically reviewed. Among them, 15 studies (n = 6,303 children) were included in the meta-analyses. Results from random-effects models indicated that shyness was positively associated with internalizing problems (r = .21,p < .01), externalizing problems (r = .14,p < .01), peer victimization (r = .23,p < .05), and asocial behaviours (r = .47,p < .05), and negatively associated with peer preference (r = -.19,p < .01), and school social competence (for school-aged children r = -.19,p < .01; for preschool children r = -.22,p < .01) in the Chinese context. Further, analyses revealed that the relationship between shyness and social–emotional development was moderated by children's characteristics (e.g., gender, age, receptive vocabulary, and emotional competence), social relationship (e.g., teacher-child relationship and parent–child attachment), and situational context (e.g., interpersonal similarity). This study suggests that shyness generally exerts negative influences on Chinese children's social–emotional development, but the influences are unique to particular social–emotional domains and moderated by both children's characteristics and environmental factors.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2265
Number of pages34
JournalInfant and Child Development
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Development
  • Education

User-Defined Keywords

  • Chinese children
  • meta-analysis
  • moderating factors
  • shyness
  • social–emotional development
  • systematic review


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