Public and Private Self-Consciousness During Early Adolescence

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The associations between two types of self-consciousness (public and private) and indices of psychosocial distress (e.g., depression, anxiety) have been well-documented in the adult personality literature. However, little is known about these types of self-consciousness during early adolescence in spite of recent evidence that self-conscious thoughts and feelings peak during the early adolescent developmental period. The present study explored the distinction between public and private self-consciousness during early adolescence by examining the psychosocial correlates of public and private self-consciousness while considering the distinction between (public) self-conscious and fearful shyness. Friendship quality was examined as a possible moderator of the relation between self-consciousness and maladjustment. Early adolescents' (N=137, 87 girls; M age= 13.98 years) reported on their self-consciousness, internalizing problems, shyness, fearfulness, and the qualities of their best friendships. Results confirmed the existence of the two different types of self-consciousness during early adolescence. However, findings indicated greater similarities than differences in the psychosocial correlates of private and public self-consciousness, suggesting that the distinction between these two types of self-directed attention may still be developing during adolescence. Contrary to expectations, evidence revealed that intimate friendship qualities may exacerbate the difficulties associated with self-consciousness. Few adolescents were able to be identified as (public) self-consciously or fearfully shy, calling into question the meaningfulness of the distinction between these two different types of problematic shyness during early adolescence. Findings from the present study highlight the importance of considering the role of self-consciousness in internalizing problems and shyness. Results pertaining to friendship quality add to the growing literature on the "dark side" of friendships.