The Mediating Role of Mentalization in the Relation between Childhood Maltreatment and Social Anxiety Symptoms in Early Adulthood

Document Type : Original Article


Department of Clinical Psychology, College of Education and Psychology, Shiraz University, Shiraz, Iran



Introduction: Social anxiety is among the most common disorders in early adulthood that has huge adverse effects on the desired function of individuals. Although previous research emphasized the effect of childhood maltreatment on the emergence of social anxiety symptoms, it is still unclear how childhood maltreatment affects these symptoms. It seems that the mentalization ability, understanding and reflecting on one's own and another's mental world, is effective in this association.
Method: This study conducted structural equation modeling based on mediation analysis in terms of correlation methods. For this reason, 219 college students of the Shiraz University of Iran were investigated in this research. Participants completed self-report questionnaires assessing social anxiety, the Social Interaction Anxiety Scale (SIAS), reflective functioning with the short version of the Reflective Functioning Questionnaire (RFQ), and childhood trauma with the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ). SmartPLS-3 and SPSS-26 were used for data analysis.
Results: The results showed that only emotional abuse has a direct effect on social anxiety symptoms (β= 0.22, p< 0.01). Moreover, uncertainty about mental states partially mediated the associations between emotional abuse and social anxiety in early adulthood (β= 0.19, p< 0.01). After gender analysis, it seemed that there were no differences between the male and female groups.
Conclusion: The results of this study extend current research and clarify the importance of the effect of emotional abuse as one of the types of childhood maltreatment on mentalization capacity and the effect of this relationship on social anxiety symptoms in early adulthood. Based on the findings of this research, it is possible to use improved mentalization ability for the prevention and treatment of social anxiety disorder.


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