The detrimental effects of adolescents’ chronic loneliness on motivation and emotion regulation in social situations
In adolescence, when establishing and maintaining satisfying social relationships is a key developmental task, chronic loneliness is related to a host of negative outcomes. This study aimed at examining motivational and regulatory factors related to chronic loneliness. Specifically, this study investigated chronically lonely adolescents’ responses to hypothetical vignettes of social inclusion and exclusion, thereby focusing on (a) adolescents’ willingness and motivation to approach social inclusion and (b) emotion regulation strategies to deal with social exclusion. A total of 730 adolescents (Mage = 15.43 years, 72% female) participated in this four-wave study with annual loneliness assessments and hypothetical vignettes of social inclusion and exclusion at the final wave. After each social inclusion vignette, participants rated their willingness to accept the invitation for social inclusion and five types of motivation to approach the situation. After each social exclusion vignette, participants rated nine cognitive emotion regulation strategies. Compared to individuals following other trajectories, chronically lonely adolescents were less likely to accept invitations for social inclusion and the quality of their motivation for accepting such invitations was lower. Further, they were more likely to employ maladaptive emotion regulation strategies. In sum, this study adds significantly to understanding the motivational and regulatory processes that differentiate chronically lonely adolescents from adolescents following other trajectories.