Learned social hopelessness: the role of explanatory style in predicting social support during adolescence

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Abstract

Background

Almost no research has examined the impact of explanatory style on social adjustment. We hypothesised that adolescents with a pessimistic style would be less likely to develop and maintain social support networks.

Methods

Seven hundred and nineteen students (351 males and 366 females; 2 unknown; MAGE = 12.28, SD = .49) completed an anonymous survey in Grades 7 through 10. Explanatory style was assessed in Grades 7 and 9, sadness was assessed in Grades 7 through 10, and quantity and quality of social support was assessed in Grades 8, 9, and 10.

Results

Structural equation modelling was used to conduct cross-lagged panel analyses of the four waves of data. Pessimistic explanatory style predicted lower levels of social support, and lower social support from the family predicted higher levels of pessimistic explanatory style. Additional analyses suggested that the effects could not be explained by sadness or by assuming that pessimistic adolescents where less liked by their peers.

Conclusions

Pessimistic adolescents feel unable to influence their social worlds in positive ways and consequently may not take actions to develop and maintain social support networks.

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