Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Donald A. Williamson


The current study investigated possible etiological risk factors in the development of social anxiety. The risk factors examined in this study were family environment, negative peer interactions, neuroticism, self-perceived attractiveness, public self-consciousness, social behavior goal/ability discrepancy, and fear of negative evaluation. These variables were hypothesized to have both direct and indirect influences on the development of social anxiety. A hypothesized risk factor model was tested employing structural equation modeling (SEM) using questionnaire data collected from 559 college undergraduates. Phases of this study included the refinement of constructs, examination of the internal consistency and discriminant validity of the constructs, examination of the structural model, and cross-validation of modified models. The measurement portion of the study highlighted significant weaknesses in the measures employed, resulting in the trimming of a number of scales. According to the models best supported in the structural modeling portion of the present study, there is a strong, direct influence of neuroticism on social anxiety. Additional variance in social anxiety can be accounted for by a second pathway which suggests that neurotic, publicly self-conscious individuals with patterns of negative social interactions in childhood may develop discrepancies in their ability to meet their goals for social interactions. This social behavior goal-ability discrepancy is the final proximal predictor of social anxiety (in the second pathway), and mediates the effects of the peer interaction, and public self-consciousness variables. Goal-ability discrepancy also mediates a portion of the effect of neuroticism. The alternate pathways supported in the present investigation may be helpful in elucidating the means by which a general proclivity toward anxiety disorders (based in neuroticism) becomes directed toward particular stimuli.