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12-04-2016 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 12/2016 Open Access

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 12/2016

Adolescent Loneliness and Social Skills: Agreement and Discrepancies Between Self-, Meta-, and Peer-Evaluations

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 12/2016
G. M. A. Lodder, L. Goossens, R. H. J. Scholte, R. C. M. E. Engels, M. Verhagen
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The online version of this article (doi:10.​1007/​s10964-016-0461-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.


Lonely adolescents report that they have poor social skills, but it is unknown whether this is due to an accurate perception of a social skills deficit, or a biased negative perception. This is an important distinction, as actual social skills deficits require different treatments than biased negative perceptions. In this study, we compared self-reported social skills evaluations with peer-reported social skills and meta-evaluations of social skills (i.e., adolescents’ perceptions of how they believe their classmates evaluate them). Based on the social skills view, we expected negative relations between loneliness and these three forms of social skills evaluations. Based on the bias view, we expected lonely adolescents to have more negative self- and meta-evaluations compared to peer-evaluations of social skills. Participants were 1342 adolescents (48.64 % male, M age = 13.95, SD = .54). All classmates rated each other in a round-robin design to obtain peer-evaluations. Self- and meta-evaluations were obtained using self-reports. Data were analyzed using polynomial regression analyses and response surface modeling. The results indicated that, when self-, peer- and meta-evaluations were similar, a greater sense of loneliness was related to poorer social skills. Loneliness was also related to larger discrepancies between self- and peer-evaluations of loneliness, but not related to the direction of these discrepancies. Thus, for some lonely adolescents, loneliness may be related to an actual social skills deficit, whereas for others a biased negative perception of one’s own social skills or a mismatch with the environment may be related to their loneliness. This implies that different mechanisms may underlie loneliness, which has implications for interventions.

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