Purpose: The primary goal of this study was to explore the effect of language context on the socially withdrawn behaviors of school-age-children who are English language learners (ELLs) from middle- to high-socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds. This is one of the first studies to address the frequently confused concepts of shyness and unsociability as independent constructs within the ELL population. The authors of this study also investigated the feasibility of an experimental parent and child questionnaire that examines shyness and unsociability across native-language and English-speaking contexts. Method: Children and mothers (34 of whom were ELLs and 37 of whom were native English speakers) were administered an experimental questionnaire examining the children's shy and unsociable behavior in native-language and English-speaking contexts. Results: Children and mothers in the ELL group reported significantly higher ratings of shy behavior in English-speaking versus native-language contexts, whereas unsociable ratings did not differ across language contexts. Conclusions: Shyness and unsociability are distinguishable behaviors in ELL children, and researchers should consider these constructs when examining withdrawal. In addition, examining ELL children's behavior across language contexts provides a valuable method for investigating language-influenced behavioral problems. This study demonstrates the need for service providers to evaluate behavior across subtype and language context before pathologizing withdrawal in ELL children.
Home Environment and Language Practices