The Link Between Peer Acceptance and Loneliness in Adolescence


Research supports that greater peer acceptance in adolescence relates to lower reports of loneliness (Woodhouse et al., 2011). Secure attachment can buffer against adolescent loneliness (Bernardon et al., 2011), and research supports a negative relation between attachment security and loneliness in adolescence (Al-Yagon et al., 2016). The current study examined the link between peer acceptance and loneliness during adolescence and examined attachment style dimensions as moderators. We hypothesized that low peer acceptance would predict greater loneliness, and that low attachment anxiety (fear of rejection and abandonment) and avoidance (fear of closeness and depending on others) would both buffer against this link. Participants (N = 2100) were 11th grade students (61.2% female, 65.1% Caucasian, 15.3% African American, 15% Asian, 4.5% Hispanic). The students completed the Experiences in Close Relationships Scale (Brennan et al., 1998), the Adolescence Loneliness Scale (Cassidy & Woodhouse, 1997), and the Peer Acceptance Assessment (Asher & Dodge, 1986). There was a negative effect of peer acceptance on loneliness (β = -0.257, p < .001), such that when peer acceptance increased, feelings of loneliness decreased. There was no significant interaction between attachment anxiety (β = 0.007, p = .712) or avoidance (β = -0.006, p = .772) and peer acceptance in predicting loneliness. Although our results support the role of peer acceptance in predicting loneliness, our analyses did not support the moderating role of attachment. These findings emphasize the importance of promoting prosocial behaviors that facilitate peer acceptance to minimize adolescents’ loneliness.