PREFERENCE-FOR-SOLITUDE, FRIENDSHIP SUPPORT, AND INTERNALIZING DIFFICULTIES DURING EARLY ADOLESCENCE IN THE U.S.A. AND CHINA
Wang, Jennifer M.
Rubin, Kenneth H.
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Social withdrawal has been associated with adjustment difficulties across development. Although much is known about shyness, little is known about preference-for-solitude; even less is known about how friendship might influence its relations with adolescent adjustment across different cultures. In particular, despite the significance of friendship for youth adjustment, not much is known about the ways in which friendship quality might lead to different adjustment outcomes for youth who prefer solitude; even less is known about these relations across different cultures. Accordingly, the overall goal of this research was to examine the relations between preference-for-solitude, friendship support, and internalizing difficulties during early adolescence in the U.S.A. and China. Specifically, this research examined the moderating role of friendship support in the relations between preference-for-solitude and internalizing difficulties (negative affect, negative self-esteem) in early adolescence across the U.S.A. and China. The U.S.A sample comprised 300 American youth (121 boys; M age = 14.28 years, SD = .51) from the greater Washington DC metropolitan area. The China sample comprised 201 youth living in Beijing, China (86 boys; M age = 14.21 years, SD = .62). Participants across both samples completed self- reports of social withdrawal (shyness; preference-for-solitude), friendship support, and internalizing difficulties (negative affect; negative self-esteem). Results from structural equation modeling demonstrated that preference-for-solitude and shyness emerged as related but unique dimensions of withdrawal across both the U.S.A. and China. Consistent with previous research, preference-for-solitude was positively associated with negative affect and negative self-esteem across both samples. In the U.S.A., friendship support significantly moderated the link between preference-for-solitude and negative self-esteem: preference-for-solitude was most associated with negative self-esteem beyond shyness for American youth with low friendship support. This was not found for negative affect; friendship support did not significantly moderate the effect of preference-for-solitude on negative affect in American youth. In China, friendship support did not significantly moderate any of the relations between preference-for-solitude and internalizing difficulties. Rather, for Chinese youth, preference-for-solitude and friendship support contributed independently beyond the effects of shyness to negative affect and negative self-esteem. In summary, preference-for-solitude was positively associated with negative affect and negative self-esteem in early adolescence across the U.S.A. and China. In the U.S.A., preference-for-solitude was most associated with negative self-esteem for youth with low friendship support. In addition to contributing to the developmental literature on preference-for-solitude, findings highlight the role of close interpersonal relationships for understanding the heterogeneity of withdrawal in development and across different cultures.