Loneliness and Fear of Intimacy among Adolescents Who Were Taught Not to Trust Strangers during Childhood
Terrell, Francis, Terrell, Ivanna S., Von Drashek, Susan R., Adolescence
This study explored feelings of loneliness and fear of intimacy among adolescents as a function of whether they were taught not to trust strangers during childhood. Eighty college students and their parents completed the Revised UCLA Loneliness Scale, both versions of the Fear of Intimacy Scale (FIS-D and FIS-F), and a background information questionnaire. It was found that students whose parents taught them not to trust strangers during childhood had greater fear of intimacy. Further, females who were taught to distrust strangers also experienced more loneliness than did their male counterparts, as well as females and males who were not taught to distrust strangers.
Over at least the past two decades, the number of children who have been abducted or molested has steadily increased (National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, 2000). In response to this trend, many parents, teachers, and other adults began to teach children not to trust strangers. However, by teaching children not to trust strangers, they may have been eroding the foundation for good future interpersonal relationships.
Several theorists, Erikson perhaps being the best known, have argued that the development of a sense of trust early in life is essential for healthy psychological functioning. According to Erikson (1963), children who fail to develop a basic sense of trust will view the world as hostile and people as undependable in later life. In contrast, trust is associated with a sense of confidence and hope. Although Erikson argued that it is important to acquire a sense of trust during the first year of life, that trust must be maintained throughout the formative years if the individual is to relate well to others in the future (Erikson, 1964). Thus, children who are taught not to trust strangers during their preschool years may have difficulty establishing intimate relationships and experience feelings of loneliness later in life.
Although limited, empirical findings seem to be consistent with Erikson's theory. Mitchell (1990) found that adolescents who do not trust others are more likely to feel insecure, lonely, and unloved. Research also indicates that the extent to which an individual trusts others is related to his or her …
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Publication information: Article title: Loneliness and Fear of Intimacy among Adolescents Who Were Taught Not to Trust Strangers during Childhood. Contributors: Terrell, Francis - Author, Terrell, Ivanna S. - Author, Von Drashek, Susan R. - Author. Journal title: Adolescence. Volume: 35. Issue: 140 Publication date: Winter 2000. Page number: 611. © 1999 Libra Publishers, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group.
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