A Longitudinal Person-Centered Examination of Affinity for Aloneness Among Children and Adolescents
Affinity for aloneness (AFA; a tendency to enjoy time spent alone) among children and adolescents often has been viewed as negative, even though research on AFA among these age groups is scarce. Moreover, researchers have not accounted for the role that social anxiety (SA) might play in enjoying solitude. The purpose of this two-wave longitudinal study of children (N = 605, 47.76% female, Mage = 9.29 years) and early adolescents (N = 596, 51.51% female, Mage = 12.20 years) was to identify distinct groups based on responses to AFA and SA survey measures, to examine transitions between these groups over time, and to assess group differences in psychosocial adjustment (e.g., peer victimization, depressive symptoms) over time. Latent class analyses revealed four groups at T1 and T2 for both the children and early adolescents. Among these were normative (i.e., LowAFA/LowSA) and AFA (i.e., High AFA/LowModSA) groups. Transition analyses indicated that moving from the normative group at T1 to the AFA group at T2 was common among the early adolescents. In both the child and early adolescent samples, the AFA group did not differ from the normative group on any of the adjustment indicators at T2, controlling for scores at T1. These findings highlight the potentially benign nature of AFA among youth without high SA. Furthermore, they stress the importance of accounting for SA in studies of AFA in order to avoid the risk of pathologizing normal, potentially harmless behaviour.