The Relationship Between Emotion Regulation and Friendlessness in Young Adults
Department of Psychology
Prior research suggests 15-20% of children experience friendlessness, or the state of having no reciprocal friends (Parker & Seal, 1996). Friendlessness tends to be chronic, as individuals who are friendless at an early age are likely to remain friendless into adulthood (Engle et al., 2011). Friendlessness is associated with significant consequences throughout childhood and adulthood (Fink & Hughes, 2019). While researchers have examined consequences of friendlessness rather extensively, potential causal or explanatory factors, such as emotion regulation, have been largely neglected. The current study directly examined the relationship between emotion regulation and friendlessness. Participants who retrospectively reported being friended in childhood scored significantly lower on the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS; Gratz & Roemer, 2004) than participants who retrospectively reported being friendless in childhood; however, this finding must be interpreted with caution. Participants who reported being currently friendless in adulthood scored significantly lower on the Friendship Questionnaire (FQ; Baron-Cohen & Wheelwright, 2003), which measures ability to derive support and satisfaction from friendships, than participants who reported being currently friended in adulthood. There was also a significant interaction between childhood and adulthood friendship status for FQ scores, indicating chronically friendless individuals experience significantly greater struggles in this area. These findings identify how vital the early identification of friendless children could be to inform the development of prevention efforts designed to minimize the long-term consequences of chronic friendlessness.