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Social Anxiety, Attributional Style, and Contemporary Dating Practices

24 July 2006


Social anxiety is a debilitating condition that affects a significant percentage of the U. S. population. It has been found to have a negative and persistent effect upon academic achievement, employment, mental health, physical health, and social relationships, whether platonic or romantic. Social relationships are of prime importance to young adults who are moving away from home for the first time and establishing their independence and autonomy. Concerns about dating and establishing romantic relationships are particularly salient to these young persons. Past research has established dating frequencies for college students (Klaus, Rersen, & Bellack, 1977), but no current figures are presently available. A poll of male and female students at a private northwest university found that students were dating on average at lower frequencies than was formerly true (M = .46 dates per month) and that their dating propositions were accepted on average approximately 81 % of the time. This study also found that students preferred to initiate romantic relationships with others by proposing casual activities like hanging out, talking, or getting coffee. In additiori, two main definitions of hooking up were endorsed by students: to engage in some sort of physical or sexual contact, or to date or be in an exclusive relationship. This study also investigated whether students who suffered from social anxiety were more or less likely to make romantic invitations or to garner acceptances to their invitations. Independent t-tests established thatthey were about as likely as students low in social anxiety to ask others out on dates and were accepted about as often. Past research established an association between social anxiety and global, stable, and internal attributions, as well as negative expectations about social events (Alfano, Joiner, & Perry, 1994; Ishiyama, 1984; Turner, Beidel, & Larkin, 1986). The present study confirmed these findings and also investigated the association between such attributions and students' ability to make and obtain acceptance to their dating invitations. No significant correlations were found between negative or positive attributions and students' ability to issue romantic invitations. Positive trends were observed, however, linking dating invitations and Composite Positive, Stable Positive, and Global Positive attributions. A negative trend linking dating invitations and Global Negative attributions was also found. In addition, significant associations were found between Composite Positive, Global Positive, and Internal Negative attributions and percentage of acceptance of dating invitations. The data also demonstrated nonsignificant trends linking Composite Negative, Stable Positive, and Internal Positive attributions and acceptance of dating invitations.


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