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The Context of Loneliness in Young Adulthood: An Exploratory Examination of the Construct of Thwarted Belongingness
AuthorMolaie, Ali Mehrad
AdvisorFisher, Jane E
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Suicide rates continue to rise among young adults in the United States despite a general decline among other age groups. Extensive research has documented a link between thwarted belongingness, defined as the absence of sufficiently satisfying, supportive relationships, and suicide risk. However, few studies have specifically examined behavioral and contextual antecedents that may give rise to thwarted belongingness. The current study employed a cross-sectional and longitudinal daily diary design to examine the relation between behavioral (e.g., emotion understanding and management) and contextual (e.g., social opportunities) factors, thwarted belongingness, and suicide risk in a sample of young adult undergraduates. Results indicated that cross-sectionally assessed emotion management, social opportunities, and social avoidance were significantly correlated with thwarted belongingness, and that thwarted belongingness fully mediated their relation to suicide risk. Further, multilevel modeling of longitudinal data demonstrated that daily social opportunities and number of social interactions predicted same-day belonging, with number of interactions remaining significant when using next-day belonging as the outcome. Secondary variables including emotional satisfaction of interactions, number of conflictual and supportive interactions, in-person activities, and passive social media use were also associated with belonging at the same time point, with variable associations with next-day belonging. While within-subject mediation analysis of behavioral and contextual factors on suicide risk through belonging was not conducted, a series of multilevel models were analyzed showing effects partially consistent with mediation. Findings support the importance of ecologically valid assessment of clinically relevant interpersonal behaviors and contexts that occasion thwarted belongingness at both between and within-person levels. Clinical implications for loneliness and suicide prevention and directions for future research are discussed.