Carleton professor puts shyness in the spotlight

Carleton Psychology Professor Robert Coplan was recently awarded a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to gain a better understanding of young children who struggle with shyness.

Coplan will study shyness in children and how it affects their adjustment to the elementary school environment. Coplan and his team will follow a large sample of kindergarten students through the next three years of their education, looking at how they interact with their parents, teachers, and each other.

“My research area is how shy kids adjust to going to school because shy kids tend to have more problems,” says Coplan. “We are trying to figure out what factors influence which shy kids; we are basically looking at risk and protective factors.”

Coplan will observe children in the classroom, where he will see how easily they establish friendships. In the home, he will examine the attitudes and beliefs of parents and the coping strategies, IQ, and communication skills of the child.

Coplan has been studying childhood shyness for years and this project is the second step in his overall plan.

“A lot of my research leading up to this point has been how we can identify shy kids to begin with,” he says. “That was part one, part two is what kind of things in their environment affect shyness.”

After this project, Coplan hopes to move on to developing intervention programs based on this and his previous research.

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