To explore subtypes of social withdrawal in different sociocultural contexts, concurrent social, school, and academic correlates of shyness and unsociability were examined in 93 urban (Mage = 14.05, SD = 0.86 years) and 136 rural (Mage = 14.39, SD = 0.69 years) seventh and eighth graders from Liaoning, China. Adolescents' shyness and unsociability were assessed with self-, peers’, and teachers’ reports. Peer-group relationships (acceptance, rejection, and exclusion) were obtained from peer nominations. Adolescents reported perceived friendship quality (positive friendship quality, conflict and betrayal) and school attitudes (school liking and avoidance). Teachers rated students' academic engagement and performance. Academic achievement (exam grades) also was obtained from school records.
According to factor and correlational analyses, shyness and unsociability emerged as distinct, but positively related, constructs, within each informant. Cross-informant agreements on shyness and unsociability were low to moderate, especially between teachers' and self- or peers' reports. Urban-rural differences were expected in the associations of shyness, but not of unsociability, with the correlates, but the hypotheses were not supported with multiple-group (urban vs. rural) path models. In the combined (urban and rural) sample, shyness was associated with negative peer relationships, low friendship quality, and negative school attitudes (for self- but not peer-reported shyness), but was unrelated to academic correlates. Self-reported unsociability related negatively to positive friendship quality and positively to academic achievement, but was unrelated to other adjustment correlates. Peer-reported unsociability, however, was associated with negative peer relationships, less positive friendship quality, low school liking, low academic performance, and low academic achievement.
The study was an initial step towards understanding subtypes of social withdrawal and adjustment correlates in various domains among Chinese adolescents living in different social contexts. The lack of urban-rural differences was not consistent with the contextual-development theory. Like their Western peers, shy Chinese adolescents were at risk for relational and school adjustment problems, but they did not have academic difficulties. Unsociable Chinese adolescents also tended to have poor adjustment at school, including relational problems with peers and friends, negative school attitudes, and academic difficulties, but only when they were perceived as unsociable by peers, rather than themselves.