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The Role of Environmental Factors in the Aetiology of Social Anxiety Disorder: A Review of the Theoretical and Empirical Literature

  • Alice R. Norton (a1) and Maree J. Abbott (a2)

Abstract

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is characterised by a marked and persistent fear of social/performance situations, and a number of key environmental factors have been implicated in the aetiology of the disorder. Hence, the current article reviews theoretical and empirical evidence linking the development of SAD with parenting factors, traumatic life events, and aversive social experiences. Specifically, research suggests that the risk of developing SAD is increased by over-controlling, critical and cold parenting, an insecure attachment style, aversive social/peer experiences, emotional maltreatment, and to a lesser extent other forms of childhood maltreatment and adversity. Moreover, these factors may lead to posttraumatic reactions, distorted negative self-imagery, and internalised shame-based schemas that subsequently maintain SAD symptomatology. However, further research is necessary to clarify the nature, interactions, and relative contributions of these factors. It is likely that SAD develops via a complex interplay of biological and environmental factors, and that multiple aetiological pathways underlie the development of the disorder.

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Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Alice Norton, Level 5 (M02F), 94 Mallett St, Camperdown, The University of Sydney NSW 2006, Australia. Email: alice.norton@sydney.edu.au

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The Role of Environmental Factors in the Aetiology of Social Anxiety Disorder: A Review of the Theoretical and Empirical Literature

  • Alice R. Norton (a1) and Maree J. Abbott (a2)

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