The Role of Family for Youth Friendships: Examining a Social Anxiety Mechanism

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The quality of family relationships and youth friendships are intricately linked. Previous studies have examined different mechanisms of family-peer linkage, but few have examined social anxiety. The present study examined whether parental rejection and family climate predicted changes in youth social anxiety, which in turn predicted changes in friendship quality and loneliness. Possible bidirectional associations also were examined. Data for mothers, fathers, and youth (Mage at Time 1 = 11.27; 52.3% were female) from 687 two-parent households over three time points are presented. Results from autoregressive, cross-lagged analyses revealed that father rejection (not mother rejection or family climate) at Time 1 (Fall of 6th Grade) predicted increased youth social anxiety at Time 2 (Spring of 7th Grade), which in turn, predicted increased loneliness at Time 3 (Spring of 8th Grade). The indirect effect of father rejection on loneliness was statistically significant. Mother rejection, father rejection, and a poor family climate were associated with decreased friendship quality and increased loneliness over time. Finally, there was some evidence of transactional associations between father rejection and youth social anxiety as well as between social anxiety and loneliness. This study’s findings underscore the important role of fathers in youth social anxiety and subsequent social adjustment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)306-320
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of youth and adolescence
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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