Examining the Role of Social-Cognitive Appraisals as a Mechanism Linking Friendship and Dislike Networks to Loneliness in Adolescence



Whitmore, Sedona

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Recent research has evaluated the influence of peer relationships on internalizing symptoms, such as loneliness, in adolescence. There remains an increasing need to understand the mechanisms by which peer relationships contribute to elevated loneliness. The present study drew on developmental psychopathology, evolutionary perspectives on loneliness, and peer relationship frameworks to examine how social-cognitive appraisals, namely fear of negative evaluation (FNE) and rejection sensitivity (RS), mediated the relationship between friendship and dislike networks with loneliness in adolescence. It was hypothesized that greater FNE and RS would mediate associations among smaller friendship networks, larger dislike networks, and elevated loneliness. The present study also hypothesized that these associations would be stronger for adolescent girls, younger adolescents and for minorities. These questions were examined using a sample of 279 6th graders and 435 9th graders from public schools in a metropolitan area in the Southwest U.S. (51% female; 28% European-American, 7% African American, 50.8% Hispanic/Latino, 1.3% Asian, and 2% American Indian or Alaska Native). Results indicated that rejection sensitivity mediated the link between friendship network popularity, gregariousness, and loneliness. The indirect effects of RS and FNE on the link between peer networks and loneliness were not conditional on gender, grade, or ethnicity/race. These findings extend our understanding of the mechanisms and their heterogeneity in how peer networks were associated with loneliness. Discussion focuses on implications of findings and ways to advance the existing knowledge on peer networks, social-cognitive appraisals, and loneliness in adolescence.



Adolescence, Rejection sensitivity, Networks, Loneliness, Fear of negative evaluation, Appraisals