In its September cover story, Counseling Today discusses the pressures facing students as they enter a new school year, including worries about making friends, fitting in with their peers and feeling successful academically. Now, a newly published study suggests that the level of anxiety experienced by certain children actually hinders their ability to make friends.

Researchers studied the peer relationships of 2,500 fifth-graders possessing varying degrees of comfort in social settings and found that children classified as “anxious-solitary” were most likely to have trouble making friends. According to a press release sent out by the Society for Research in Child Development, these children have the desire to interact with their peers, but the thought of doing so causes so much anxiety that it discourages them from doing so, hindering them from forming and maintaining friendships. The study found that these children are less likely to have friends than their peers, are more likely to lose their friendships over time, are usually more emotionally sensitive and are also more likely to be excluded and victimized by their peers.

The researchers also said that the support provided by friendships during adolescence is especially important because it keeps children from being bullied and excluded.