In contrast, children who exhibit extreme shyness which is neither context-specific nor transient may be at some risk.

Such children may lack social skills or have poor self-images.

Hyson and Karen Van Trieste Shyness is a common but little understood emotion.

Everyone has felt ambivalent or self-conscious in new social situations.

Extremely inhibited children show physiological differences from uninhibited children, including higher and more stable heart rates.

From ages 2 to 5, the most inhibited children continue to show reticent behavior with new peers and adults.

However, at times shyness may interfere with optimal social development and restrict children’s learning.

This digest (1) describes types and manifestations of shyness, (2) reviews research on genetic, temperamental, and environmental influences on shyness, (3) distinguishes between normal and problematic shyness, and (4) suggests ways to help the shy child.

Researchers have implicated both nurture and nature in these individual differences. Children’s cultural background and family environment offer models of social behavior.

Chinese children in day care have been found to be more socially reticent than Caucasians, and Swedish children report more social discomfort than Americans.

New social encounters are the most frequent causes of shyness, especially if the shy person feels herself to be the focus of attention.

An “epidemic of shyness” has been attributed to the rapidly changing social environment and competitive pressures of school and work with which 1980s children and adults must cope.

Shyness can be a normal, adaptive response to potentially overwhelming social experience.