Behavioral inhibition refers to the tendency of children to be unusually shy and to react with fear and withdrawal in situations that are novel and/or unfamiliar, and is generally regarded as a vulnerability factor for developing anxiety disorders. The present study investigated the hypothesis that behavioral inhibition is characterized by a specific constellation of two underlying personality characteristics, namely high levels of neuroticism and low levels of effortful control. For this purpose, 71 children completed measures of behavioral inhibition, neuroticism, attention control (which is a key element of effortful control), and insecure attachment. Results showed that children high on behavioral inhibition were indeed characterized by higher levels of neuroticism and lower levels of attention control. However, this pattern of personality characteristics was not specific for behavioral inhibition. That is, insecurely attached children were also characterized by high neuroticism and low attention control. The implications of these findings are briefly discussed.

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Child Psychiatry & Human Development
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

Muris, P.E.H.M, & Dietvorst, R.C. (2006). Underlying personality characteristics of behavioral inhibition in children. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 36(4), 437–445. doi:10.1007/s10578-006-0014-9