Time alone will tell: longitudinal links between social withdrawal and social relationships across adolescence and early adulthood

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    Social withdrawal (distancing yourself from other people) during adolescence and young adulthood can be reason for concern, because relationships with peers, friends, and romantic partners are very important for wellbeing during these ages. Little is known about how withdrawal contributes to problems in social relationships, and which aspects of these relationships can increase or decrease withdrawal. We found that adolescents who were more bullied or less accepted by their peers withdrew more from others later on, and in turn, adolescents who withdrew more were bullied more and less accepted by peers later on. Adolescents who were more withdrawn had fewer, worse, and less stable friendships a few years later, and in turn, worse friendships predicted more withdrawal. Withdrawn young adults were more likely to have never had a romantic relationship and to start dating when older, but when these individuals entered their first romantic relationship withdrawal decreased. These findings show that withdrawal affects social relationships—and the other way around—up until adulthood, and that the social difficulties of withdrawn youth are present across different types of relationships. We also found that big life transitions, such as a change of school or moving to a new location, provided opportunities for withdrawal to change and for social relationships to improve. These findings give us new insights about the links between withdrawal and social relationships during an important period for individuals’ development, and offer ideas for how we can help youth to become less withdrawn and have better relationships with others.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Groningen
    • Oldehinkel, Tineke, Supervisor
    • Meeus, Wim H. J., Supervisor, External person
    • Klop-Richards, Jennifer, Co-supervisor
    Award date16-May-2022
    Place of Publication[Groningen]
    Publication statusPublished - 2022


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