Social Motives Predict Loneliness During a Developmental Transition

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Establishing new social relationships is important for mastering developmental transitions in young adulthood. In a 2-year longitudinal study with four measurement occasions (T1: n = 245, T2: n = 96, T3: n = 103, T4: n = 85), we investigated the role of social motives in college students’ mastery of the transition of moving out of the parental home, using loneliness as an indicator of poor adjustment to the transition. Students with strong social approach motivation reported stable and low levels of loneliness. In contrast, students with strong social avoidance motivation reported high levels of loneliness. However, this effect dissipated relatively quickly as most of the young adults adapted to the transition over a period of several weeks. The present study also provides evidence for an interaction between social approach and social avoidance motives: Social approach motives buffered the negative effect on social well-being of social avoidance motives. These results illustrate the importance of social approach and social avoidance motives and their interplay during developmental transitions.

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