Friendship quality, social preference, proximity prestige, and self-perceived social competence: Interactive influences on children's loneliness


The purpose of this study was to test an integrative model in which peer relations at different levels of social complexity (friendship quality, social preference, and proximity prestige) are associated with children's loneliness, with children's self-perceived social competence acting as a mediator of these associations. A middle childhood sample of 509 Chinese children (233 girls and 276 boys; 3rd to 6th grade) completed a battery of sociometric and self-report questionnaires. Bootstrap analysis showed that self-perceived social competence mediated the relations between each peer variable and loneliness. In the integrative model tested with SEM, the mediating effect of self-perceived social competence in the relation between friendship quality and loneliness and between social preference and loneliness remained significant. However, self-perceived social competence no longer mediated the association between proximity prestige and loneliness, when considering the simultaneous influences of the three peer variables (friendship quality, social preference, and proximity prestige). The whole model accounted for 56% of the variance in loneliness. These findings suggest that self-perceived social competence played an important role in children's loneliness, that the quality and the quantity of direct peer relations (friendship quality, social preference, and part of proximity prestige) were associated with loneliness, and that indirect friends had a relatively lower but significant influence on children's loneliness. The results are discussed in terms of their implications for preventing children's loneliness.

Publication Title

Journal of School Psychology