Research has found that children who have been rejected by their fathers are more likely to develop social anxiety and loneliness in adolescence.
How does parental rejection affect the social lives of adolescents?
Social anxiety isn’t a fun thing to live with. When you have social anxiety, you become self-conscious and fixated on what others think of you. While most people have some degree of self-consciousness, some of us worry more about social interactions than usual.
A new study has found that parental rejection, particular that of a father, may cause social anxiety in children. Parental rejection refers to a situation in which a parent fails to provide warmth, care, or parenting in general for their child. Findings showed that children who have experienced parental rejection from their fathers in particular are more likely to develop social anxiety than children who have not experienced parental alienation. As a result of this social anxiety, these children are more likely to experience loneliness in their adolescence.
Social anxiety in adolescents can lead to loneliness.
The formation and maintenance of good interpersonal relationships are vital to the development of adolescents. Thus, adolescents with good social interactions tend to be psychologically healthier. Meanwhile, those that have difficulty making friends tend to perform worse at school and are more prone to symptoms of depression. Social anxiety, however, can hinder adolescents from forming friendships.
Does parental alienation by a mother have the same effect? According to the findings, no. “We found that father rejection, but not mother rejection, predicted changes in social anxiety,” says Hio Wa “Grace” Mak, one of the researchers. “Fathers aren’t usually included in family research, so it’s important to know more about fathers and how they influence adolescent friendship and loneliness.”
The researchers studied a total of 687 families with a mother, father, and an adolescent child during the child’s sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. The parents were asked about their feelings of love, distrust and dissatisfaction concerning their child as well as how the family interacted in general. Children, meanwhile, were asked about social anxiety, friendships, and feelings of loneliness. The results of the analysis showed that maternal rejection, paternal rejection, and the overall family interaction all had an impact on the quality of the child’s friendships.
The research hopes to help in efforts geared towards forming stronger father-child relationships.
Results also showed that paternal rejection in the child’s sixth grade was associated with an increase in social anxiety in the seventh grade. Social anxiety in the seventh grade, meanwhile, led to an increase in feelings of loneliness in the eighth grade.
“I think these findings suggest that we should also reach out to families to help them support this sense of belonging and connection,” said Gregory Fosco, one of the researchers. “We might be overlooking the family as an important piece of cultivating these healthy peer relationships.”
The relationship between a parent and a child can impact the other relationships that a child can make. Thus, the researchers hope that their study can help inform strategies geared toward addressing social anxiety in adolescents as well as efforts in fostering better father-child relationships.
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