Development and Psychopathology

Regular Articles

Predictors of withdrawal: Possible precursors of avoidant personality disorder

Natalie D. Egguma1, Nancy Eisenberga1 c1, Tracy L. Spinrada1, Carlos Valientea1, Alison Edwardsa1, Anne S. Kupfera1 and Mark Reisera1

a1 Arizona State University


Relations of avoidant personality disorder (AvPD) with shyness and inhibition suggest that a precursor of AvPD is withdrawal. Using a sample of 4.5- to 7-year-olds studied four times, 2 years apart, four and three classes of children differing in trajectories of mother- and teacher-reported withdrawal, respectively, were identified. Mothers and teachers generally did not agree on children's trajectories but the pattern of findings in the two contexts did not differ markedly. The mother-identified high and declining withdrawal class, in comparison with less withdrawn classes, and the teacher-identified high and declining class compared with low withdrawal classes, were associated with relatively high levels of anger and low levels of attentional control and resiliency. The mother-identified moderate and increasing withdrawal class was distinguished from less problematic withdrawal classes by higher anger, lower resiliency, and sometimes, lower attentional control. The teacher-identified low and increasing withdrawal class was distinguished from less problematic withdrawal classes by lower resiliency and lower attentional control. Findings are discussed in terms of the developmental precursors to social withdrawal and avoidant behavior.


c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Nancy Eisenberg, Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-1104. E-mail:


This research was supported in part by grants from the National Institutes of Mental Health (to N.E., T.L.S., and M.R.) and a Research Scientist Award from the National Institute of Mental Health (to N.E.). We thank our undergraduate and graduate research assistants for their contributions to this study, as well as Craig Enders and Jenn Yun-Tein for statistical advice. We also thank the children, parents, principals, and teachers involved in the study.