Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Peer Attachment and Loneliness among Adolescents Who Are Deaf: The Moderating Effect of Personality

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Peer Attachment and Loneliness among Adolescents Who Are Deaf: The Moderating Effect of Personality

Article excerpt

Findings in research across a wide range of fields have highlighted the clinical importance of loneliness, especially among youth (see Heinrich & Gullone, 2006 for a review) and researchers have shown that loneliness can produce a variety of ill effects, ranging from anxiety to depression (e.g., Eisses et al., 2004), heart failure, and suicide (e.g., Heinrich & Gullone, 2006). Children at the age of five or six years have a basic understanding of loneliness (Asher & Paquette, 2003) and, as they grow older, loneliness becomes more common and is experienced more intensely in adolescence than at other developmental stages of life (see e.g., Heinrich & Gullone, 2006).

Loneliness in Adolescents who are Deaf

Researchers have found that adolescents who have mental or physical disabilities are more susceptible to loneliness than are their peers who do not have these disabilities (e.g., Bauminger, & Kasari, 2000). For example, many individuals who are deaf express a desire to have social relationships, but describe themselves as being lonely and depressed because they have established few close peer relationships (Most, 2007). Unlike adolescents who have normal hearing, adolescents who are deaf often lack proficiency in language skills, which makes their social interactions a frustrating struggle. Having poor language skills may contribute to increased social isolation and may inhibit social integration (see e.g., Foster, 1998). Although loneliness among adolescents who are deaf has become a serious concern for parents and educators, few studies have been conducted in which researchers have examined the mechanism of loneliness among this group.

Loneliness, Personality Traits, and Peer Attachment

Previous researchers have found a strong relationship between loneliness and personality traits. For example, it has been found that loneliness was negatively related to extraversion (Atak, 2009; Cheng & Furnham, 2002), but positively associated with neuroticism (Atak, 2009) and psychoticism (Nayyar & Singh, 2011).

Researchers have also reported finding a relationship between loneliness and peer attachment. For example, Leonardi and Kiosseoglou (2000) found that alienation was positively related to increased feelings of loneliness, and Muris, Meesters, van Melick, and Zwambag (2001) reported that they had found that trust and communication were negatively associated with loneliness and depression.

There is also a considerable amount of data available to substantiate a relationship between personality and peer ratings of likeability and popularity (e.g., van der Linden, Scholte, Cillessen, te Nijenhuis, & Segers, 2010). An association has also been reported between both agreeableness and extraversion and peer acceptance or victimization by peers (Jensen-Campbell et al., 2002). However, these high pairwise correlations between personality traits and both peer attachment and loneliness are based on studies conducted with adolescents with normal hearing. No examination has yet been conducted of either the interrelationships among personality, peer attachment, and loneliness, or the nature of this triangular relationship, among adolescents who are deaf.

In order to better understand loneliness among adolescents who are deaf, we examined peer attachment and personality traits as the predictors of loneliness, looking particularly at the moderation of personality traits in this relationship. As two important extensions of early parental attachment, peer attachment and personality are intertwined with each other. For example, it has been shown that when there is similarity in an individual's personality across all Big Five traits this enhances friendship selection (Selfhout et al., 2010). Berry, Willingham, and Thayer (2000) found that extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, and openness predicted measures of friendship quality. That is, personality moderates an individual's behavior and interactions with peers. …

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