Why do the chronically lonely stay lonely? Chronically lonely children and adolescents attributions and emotions in situations of social inclusion and exclusion.
The goal of this study was to identify mechanisms associated with chronic loneliness by examining the effect of adolescents' accumulated history of loneliness on responses to new social situations. Specifically, this study investigated whether attributions and emotions in situations of social inclusion and exclusion differ between chronically lonely adolescents and adolescents with a different loneliness history. A total of 730 adolescents (Mage at Wave 1 = 15.43 years) participated in a 4-wave longitudinal study with annual loneliness assessments. A chronic loneliness trajectory was identified, in addition to low-stable, moderate-stable, moderate-increasing, and high-decreasing loneliness trajectories. At Wave 4, vignettes depicting social inclusion and exclusion were presented, and participants rated a set of attributions and emotions following each vignette. Compared with individuals following other trajectories, chronically lonely adolescents were characterized by hypersensitivity to social exclusion (i.e., higher levels of negative emotions) and hyposensitivity to social inclusion (i.e., lower levels of enthusiasm). Further, chronically lonely adolescents had a stronger tendency to attribute social inclusion to circumstantial factors and social exclusion to internal and stable characteristics. This maladaptive attribution style partially mediated their emotional experiences. Together, results indicate that chronically lonely individuals respond to social situations in ways that may perpetuate rather than reduce their loneliness.
Vanhalst, J; Soenens, B; Luyckx, K; Petegem, SV; Weeks, MS; Asher, SR
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