Adolescent Social Roots of Adult Loneliness

Author: ORCID icon
Tan, Joseph, Psychology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Allen, Joseph, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia

This study used longitudinal, multimethod data from a community sample to examine the relationships between adolescent social experiences and adult loneliness. First, it was hypothesized that close relationship experiences in adolescence will be more predictive of adult loneliness than broad peer group acceptance. Latent growth curve analyses showed that close friendship competence in adolescence predicted lower initial levels of loneliness in adulthood, while broad peer group acceptance did not significantly predict either initial levels of loneliness in adulthood or growth in loneliness. The results suggest that the social skills that an adolescent requires to be seen as competent in close friendships may serve as an effective foundation for connecting with others an adult, while the importance of broad peer group acceptance might be bounded to adolescence, at least in terms of loneliness.
Next, it was hypothesized that adolescents who display delays in the transition of relationship function will be lonelier as adults. Latent growth curve analyses showed no evidence for differences in engagement with parents versus with close friends or differences in self-disclosure with parents versus with close friends predicting loneliness. Analyses showed that more growth in close friendship intimacy during adolescence was found to marginally predict less loneliness at the initial time of assessment in adulthood. However, no evidence was found for either romantic relationship engagement or being in a romantic relationship predicting the loneliness intercept or slope. Results suggest further support for the importance of adolescent close relationships for adult loneliness.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Adolescent development, Loneliness, Close relationships
Issued Date: