Adolescent interpersonal relationship quantity and quality, belongingness, and loneliness
Adolescence is a time of widespread and particularly intense feelings of loneliness. This study investigated how the quantity and quality of evolving interpersonal relationships affect adolescent feelings of belongingness to family, friends, and romantic partners, and moreover, how such relationships influence their experiences with loneliness. A total of 479 Taiwanese adolescents aged 12 to 22 from a middle school, a senior high school, and an university participated in the study. A quantitative approach using structural equation modeling was employed to address the appropriateness of the hypothetical adolescent loneliness model from the perspective of belongingness. The study’s results indicated that the hypothetical model was reliable for assessing loneliness during the three stages (early, middle, and late) of adolescence. As predicted, the interaction between the quality and quantity of adolescents’ interpersonal relationships with family members contributed to their feelings of belongingness to family. Similarly, interaction between relationship quality and quantity with a best friend contributed to adolescents’ feelings of belongingness to their friends. Moreover, feelings of belongingness to family and friends decreased adolescents’ level of loneliness. However, the results from multiple group modeling failed to demonstrate predicted differences between adolescents’ feelings of loneliness and belongingness to family and friends for the three stages of adolescence. Interestingly, the interaction between relationship quantity and quality with one’s father on adolescents’ feelings of belongingness to family was more important for middle and late adolescents than for early adolescents. Furthermore, for those adolescents who had romantic partners at the time the study was conducted, their level of belongingness to a romantic partner significantly decreased their feelings of loneliness. However, for those adolescents who did not have a romantic partner, the presence of past a romantic partner(s) failed to predict feelings of loneliness. The study’s findings also found that adolescent individuation of movement toward the pursuit of friendships and romantic partners, including their increased appreciation of these relationships, were achieved without loss of connection with family members.