Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Social Support, Loneliness and Friendship Preference among British Asian and Non-Asian Adolescents

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Social Support, Loneliness and Friendship Preference among British Asian and Non-Asian Adolescents

Article excerpt

This paper aims to investigate the support-seeking behavior of adolescents (14 and 15 years) of South Asian and other backgrounds, the association between friendship choice and perceived feelings of loneliness, and the complex inter-relationship between these variables. Standardized psychological measures were administered to a sample of 824 Asian and other adolescents. The findings for a weighted sample of 651 show that Asian adolescents have higher levels of perceived feelings of loneliness and a lower level of preference for mixed-ethnic friendship than their non-Asian counterparts. A significant difference is also obtained on the support-- seeking behavior between Asian and non-Asian adolescents. The development perspectives of the findings that are implicated in the socialization process are discussed.

Keywords: Social support, Loneliness, Friendship preference, Asian adolescence, Psychological health. Please address correspondence and reprint requests to: Dr. Manfusa Shams, Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology, University of Luton, Park Square, LUI MU, Bedfordshire, England.

The association between adolescents' socialization process and some variables such as family relationships (Shams & Williams, 1995), friendships (Kubitschek & Hallinan, 1998) and peer-group relationships (Cotterell, 1996) are well documented. Theorising adolescent socialization, Hartup and Stevens (1997) have offered life-span perspectives in socialization (deep and surface structure in friendship relations). The socialization process for adolescents is complex, and includes perceived socio-emotional aspects of the immediate environment (e.g., loneliness and social support). Friendship pattern is related to social attachment and social identity. Attachment which is defined as an emotional bond between two people and which gives a sense of security (Cotterell, 1996) is very important for an adolescent as it is seen as a form of social support.

The discourse of adolescence identifies loneliness as a natural developmental process irrespective of ethnic status. The explanations put forward to justify this generalisation are formation of peer-group relationships, negotiation and re-negotiation of stages of relinquishing childhood ties, forming new attachments and enduring some loneliness which is categorized as "mourning" by Anna Freud (1958). Although multiple attachment has been identified as a beneficial agent, nevertheless, it may not apply to all ethnic groups. For example, a critique of adolescence literature by Arnett (1999) shows that adolescent trauma is experienced less in the traditional/collectivist culture because of extended social and kinship networks.

The present paper aims to examine the differences in perceived feelings of loneliness, social support and preferences for friendship and activities after school between Asian and non-Asian adolescents. It is part of a large study which was conducted during 1992-93.



The sample for the present study comprised 824 secondary school children aged 14-15 years (boys and girls) from Asian and non-Asian backgrounds. The overall response rate was 71%. Appropriate statistical techniques were applied to select representative pupils of British descent (all whites) and to reweigh data resulting in a final sample of 651. Further details of the sampling method are reported in Shams and Williams (1993).


The study was conducted on the school premises, and all 14-15 years Asian and non-Asian pupils were requested to complete a self-contained questionnaire under the supervision of the author. The standard protocols for research with school children and all ethical issues for psychological research were fully implemented.


Inventory of Socially Supportive Behaivors (ISSB). The ISSB (Barrera & Sandler, 1981) comprises six support functions to measure material aid, personal talk, recreation, physical assistance, advice, and positive feedback. …

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