Loneliness is a crucial part of people’s experience in the transition to adulthood. Several developmental tasks, such as the separation/individuation process and exploration in the interpersonal domains connected with identity acquisition, lead adolescents to seek solitary experiences. Adolescents are involved in the redefinition of their relationships with parents and peers, moving away from their dependence on the family. The aim of the present study is to assess the effects of two aspects of autonomy: emotional autonomy (separation and detachment) and autonomous motivation for solitary behavior, on parent- and peer-related loneliness during adolescence. The participants were 977 adolescents (447 males and 530 females), aged between 14 and 20 years (M = 16.31; SD = 1.57), recruited from Italian high schools. The Italian versions of the Loneliness and Aloneness Scale for Children and Adolescents, of the Emotional Autonomy Scale and of the Frequency of and Autonomy for Solitary and Interpersonal Behavior scale were administered to each participant. Structural equation models and path analysis indicate the effects of separation–individuation process dimensions both on parent- and peer-related loneliness. Specific differences emerge between the two dimensions of loneliness. Peer-related loneliness is more influenced by autonomous motivation than is parent-related loneliness, and controlled motivation mediates its relationship with separation. The relationships among the constructs are discussed in the light of the separation–individuation process and with regard to the prevention of maladaptive outcomes.
- emotional autonomy
- motivation for solitary behavior