Shy children tend to have muted reactions to joy or anger in the facial expressions of others, inhibitions that may lead to the anxieties many experience later in life, Italian researchers said on Monday.
Shy children seem to miss emotional cues that are “socially relevant,” wrote study author Marco Battaglia of the San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan. That missing information may lead to the higher rates of anxiety disorders and social phobias suffered by shy children later on in life, he said. In the study of 49 shy Italian children aged 8 and 9, researchers found the children had a tendency to misread joy, anger or neutral feelings depicted in photographs of faces they were shown. Electrodes monitoring the children’s brain waves showed less activity in regions normally associated with reactions to others’ emotions, said the report, which was published in The Archives of General Psychiatry. The presence of a form of the gene that suppressed the hormone serotonin was also associated with the muted reactions, according to the report.(Source: The Archives of General Psychiatry: Reuters Health: January 2005.)