Relationships are fundamental to how people experience the world around them, says Douglas Nangle, professor of psychology, director of the UMaine Clinical Training Program and recipient of UMaine’s 2011 UMaine Presidential Outstanding Teaching Award.
Since joining the university in 1994, Nangle’s research has focused on child and adolescent peer relations, and social skills assessment and treatment. He has examined how the friendships in children and adolescents impact, and are impacted by, internalizing symptoms, like depression and social anxiety. His work also explores how friendships and other peer experiences help shape the development of early romantic relationships.
In many ways, friendships are important training grounds for future relationships, says Nangle.
Early friendships provide opportunities to learn skills in communication, empathy and intimacy. Inhibition and withdrawal associated with social anxiety can create challenges for early friendship formation and impede development of relationship-building skills. Without them, or exposure to broader social networks that good friendships offer, adolescents’ romantic relationships may suffer.
Nangle’s research has identified a path connecting social anxiety to friendship and romantic relationship impairments in adolescence. He also has found evidence linking social anxiety and dating aggression in college-age romantic relationships.
Most recently, Nangle has explored this link between social anxiety and forms of aggression. Rather than physical or overt aggression, he and other researchers have begun to identify more indirect forms of aggression in peer relationships.