Peer attachment and loneliness among adolescents who are deaf: The moderating effect of personality
Aitao Lu, Yangping Yu, Xiuxiu Hong, Yi Feng, and Haioing Tian (South China Normal University), and Jianhua Laio (Dongguan Qizhi Special Education School, China), 2014, 42(4), 551–560

As I read this article I was reminded of Nina Raine’s play Tribes, which I attended a performance of last year. The play concerns a very vocal and academic family in which the youngest child, Billy, is deaf. His parents have brought him up to lip read and have kept him removed from the deaf community because they do not want him identifying with that particular “tribe.” It is a fascinating and heartfelt conundrum. While Billy’s parents believe that they have his best interests at heart, Billy eventually asserts his own wishes: to learn sign language and be part of the community to which he believes he belongs.

The play is fictional, yet it has direct links to the researchers’ concerns in this article. They state, “Although loneliness among adolescents who are deaf has become a serious concern for parents and educators, few studies have been conducted in which researchers have examined the mechanism of loneliness among this group” (p. 552). The researchers had two particular goals: first, to find out the degree to which individual differences in personality traits account for the vulnerability in the trajectory of the loneliness of adolescents who are deaf under peer attachment; and second, to assess the role of education in a special school on the social adjustment of children who are deaf.

While Billy’s parents believed that it would be best for him to not be associated with the deaf community and be labelled thus, the authors of this study suggest that “when peers who are deaf surround adolescents who are deaf, in this situation these young people could satisfy their needs to form and maintain social relationships with others, which would exert a positive impact on their life satisfaction” (p. 558). Further, they found that “it appears that peer attachment and extraversion are two important and protective factors in improving the mental health of adolescents being educated in separate schools for those who are deaf” (p. 558).
While none of us want to be known by a label, I believe that we do find comfort and support in knowing others who have similar experiences and struggles as ourselves. Adolescence is sufficiently challenging without disabilities that may make one feel isolated and lonely. This study is timely and provides food for thought as to how we can put supports and encouragement in place for adolescents to flourish and feel included, no matter what their needs or differences.

Emily Duncan | Copyeditor
Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal