Someone to Lean on: Assessment and Implications of Social Surrogate Use in Childhood


  • This research was supported by a Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada doctoral fellowship to Kimberley A. Arbeau. The authors wish to thank the school board, and the teachers, parents, and children who participated in this study for their assistance and cooperation.

Kimberley Arbeau, Department of Family Social Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3T 2N2, Canada. Email:


A social surrogate is a person who helps a shy individual deal with the stresses of a social situation. Previous research has only investigated social surrogate use in adults. The purpose of the current study was to develop and evaluate a new self-report measure of social surrogacy in middle childhood and to explore the implications of this phenomenon for children's socioemotional functioning. Participants were N = 328 children in grades 3–5 (Meanage= 9.45, Standard deviation = .93). Children completed the newly developed child social surrogate questionnaire (CSSQ) as well as self-report assessments of shyness, loneliness, social anxiety, peer victimization, and self-perceptions. Results indicated good psychometric properties and evidence of construct validity for the CSSQ. Social surrogacy was related to elevated shyness, social anxiety, and victimization. Contrary to expectations, there was also some evidence to suggest that social surrogacy may have particularly negative implications for shy children.