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A Social Phobia Test for Parents & Teachers

In order for social phobia to be diagnosed in children, the duration of social anxiety must be longer than 6 months, and a child’s capacity for age-appropriate peer interactions must be established in order for a diagnosis to be made. (If kids lack the capacity for proper social interactions, such as is the case with autism, then this falls into the category of other disorders and does not qualify for social phobia.) The DSM-IV also recommends that social phobia should not be diagnosed in children who only exhibit problems during interaction with adults.

Does my child have social anxiety?

In an interview with parents, teachers, or the child themselves, a cognitive behavioral psychologist would ask some of the following questions in order to assess a youth’s level of social inhibition. You can ask yourself some of the same questions, just keep in mind that this is an unofficial test to measure social anxiety, and a more thorough analysis by a professional pertaining to your specific child would be needed in order to make an official diagnosis.

Assessing a child’s ability to form friendships

  • How many friends does a child have? Who are they?

  • What type of interaction does he or she have with friends, and how often?

  • How long do friendships typically last?

Guidelines: It’s typically the quality (not quantity) of friendships that matters. Children can be perfectly happy with a few key friendships. If a child has one or two close friends, then it’s usually a sign that they are capable of forming enduring bonds with peers when they choose to.

Measures of social interaction

  • Is the youth popular with other children, or rejected by them?

  • Does he or she get invited to parties, and if so, do they attend?

  • What does he or she do during lunch, recess, or other free play times? Who (if anyone) do they hang out with?

  • Are there any social situations that make a child anxious? Does he or she avoid particular situations? If so, what are they? How often do they occur, and what specifically seem to be the triggers? What type of behaviors do these situations provoke in the child, and are there any consequences?

  • What types of social activities (sports, dance, clubs, etc.) does the youth engage in, and how often?

Guidelines: Not every kid is going to be popular or have a wide circle of friends, but you want to ask yourself whether they are intentionally avoiding social situations that other kids their age would normally seek.

Assessing a child’s social skills

  • Does he or she feel comfortable approaching a group of peers in order to join an activity?

  • What is the quality of their relationships with teachers? What about parents and other family members

  • Do certain social situations tend to result in conflict with others? (If so, when, how often, what triggers it, what behavior does the child exhibit, and what are the consequences?

  • Does a child have a habit of saying odd or socially inappropriate things that make others uncomfortable?

  • Do certain social situations tend to result in conflict with others? (If so, when, how often, what triggers it, what behavior does the child exhibit, and what are the consequences?)

  • Does a child find particular social situations difficult to deal with? (If so, same questions as above.)

Guidelines: It’s important to separate a child’s capacity for social interaction from their actual engagement. If a child prefers to be alone rather than interact in large groups but can otherwise show social competence when the situation arises, then it’s unlikely they meet the criteria for social phobia. If the child can’t engage in these activities without experiencing significant distress, then that would be a sign of social anxiety.


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