The goals of this study were to explore the relationship between shyness and the quantitative and qualitative aspects of friendship during adolescence and to analyse the moderating role of such variables in the relationship between shyness and internalizing difficulties.
A total of 683 adolescents who were attending secondary and high schools in Florence were enrolled: 398 early adolescents (220 males and 178 females) aged 11 to 13 (M = 12.32; SD = 0.71) and 285 late adolescents (161 males and 124 females) age 17 to 19 (M = 17.71; SD = 0.68). Subjects completed a battery of questionnaires that included measures of shyness, quantitative and qualitative aspects of friendship and internalising problems. Shyness was assessed using the Italian version (Ponti & Tani, 2009) of the Revised Cheek and Buss Shyness Scale (RCBS; Cheek, 1983). Reciprocal friendships were measured using friendship nominations (Bukowski, Hoza, & Boivin, 1994) and friendship qualities were assessed via the Italian version (Ponti, Guarnieri, Smorti, & Tani, 2010) of the Friendship Qualities Scale (FQS; Bukowski et al., 1994), which assesses 5 dimensions: conflict, companionship, help, security and closeness. Internalising problems were assessed using the Italian version (Pastorelli, Gerbino, Vecchio, Steca, Picconi & Paciello, 2002) of the Youth Self Report (YSR) developed by Achenbach (1991). Two analyses of variance (ANOVAs) were conducted to assess between group differences in the number of reciprocal friendship and in levels of social rejection. Multivariate analyses of variance (MANOVA) were conducted to assess between group differences in friendship relationship qualities. Finally, a series of hierarchical regression analyses were conducted to explore the moderating role of the quality of friendship relationship on the correlation between shyness and psychological adjustment.
The results indicated that shyness does not affect the quantitative aspects of friendship considered. However, shy adolescents perceived their friendship relationships as characterized by more negative aspects than did their peers. Moreover, the moderating role only of qualitative aspect of friendship was seen: participants who perceived their friend as helpful and supportive showed significantly fewer internalising problems related to shyness.
Overall, these results showed that the quantitative aspects of friendship do not vary as a function of shyness, but that, in contrast, the qualitative aspects of reciprocal friendships vary significantly between shy and non-shy individuals. In other words, shy individuals have the same number of reciprocal friendships and were not significantly more rejected by their peers than non-shy adolescents, but they do show a friendship relationship quality characterised by more negative aspects than their peers. Moreover, these results demonstrated the importance that a positive friendship relationship has in influencing individual well-being, such as internalising difficulties, especially for shy individuals.