Latino Adolescents’ Loneliness, Academic Performance, and the Buffering Nature of Friendships

Abstract

This longitudinal study examined Latino adolescents’ feelings of loneliness and the repercussions of loneliness for later educational success. Participants were 640 Latino students (56% girls, 62% Mexican/Mexican–American) who reported on loneliness across the first 2 years of high school. Growth mixture modeling identified three distinct loneliness trajectory classes for the Latino adolescents—consistently low, chronically high, and low but increasing. Language brokering, language use, and school mobility emerged as predictors of class membership. Increasingly and chronically lonely youth experienced academic difficulty, both in terms of academic progress and exit exam success, but support from friends served as a buffer of the negative relationship between loneliness and academic success. This study highlights the pernicious effects of loneliness and suggests promoting prosocial friendship support as a means of facilitating more positive academic outcomes for Latino youth.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by grants from the Spencer Foundation, the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD; F32 HD056732) awarded to the author and an NICHD grant awarded to the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin (R24 HD042849).

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Correspondence to Aprile D. Benner.

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Benner, A.D. Latino Adolescents’ Loneliness, Academic Performance, and the Buffering Nature of Friendships. J Youth Adolescence 40, 556–567 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-010-9561-2

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Keywords

  • Latino
  • Loneliness
  • Academic achievement
  • Friendship
  • Adolescents