According to the 4th-century philosopher Aristotle, human beings are naturally social animals. Our very nature drives us to seek the comforts, safety, and individual opportunities of the group. However, our modern society is quickly becoming more isolated. What are the effects of social isolation? Who is most at risk? How can parents help their antisocial child form stronger social bonds?
The Effects of Social Isolation
As social animals, human beings realize their best potential in a group setting. Those who are denied the benefits of regular and positive social interactions suffer a number of negative mental and physical effects. These can include:
- Increased risk of early death. The rate of death due to social isolation is similar to that of cigarette smokers. Loneliness is a greater contributing factor to early death than obesity.
- Impaired immune functions and increased inflammatory response. Inflammation is associated with arthritic conditions, heart disease, and type II diabetes.
- Depression and anxiety. These conditions may be a driving factor behind the sufferer’s desire to self-isolate or the result of not receiving the proper social supports.
Social isolation makes most aspects of daily life more difficult. In younger people, these effects can delay development and reduce the likelihood of growing into a successful and independent adult.
Risk Factors for Social Isolation
Children with autism, ADHD, and related disorders who already struggle with social interactions have a high risk of suffering from social isolation. Their inability to decipher social cues and impulsivity make following unwritten social codes nearly impossible. Without the proper interventions, these children can miss important developmental milestones and severely limit their future potential.
Neurotypical children also experience problems finding their place within peer groups. Identity issues, emotional trauma, and personal conflicts are just a few of the factors that can drive a wedge between young ones and their classmates.
The risk factors for adults are similar. Veterans, the elderly, and those who identify as LGBT are more likely to fall into this category.
Techniques to Encourage Positive Social Interactions
Parents can help their socially sensitive child better find their niche by adopting these habits.
- Encourage them to identify their own needs. Help your child understand the difference between being lonely and wanting to be alone and how to balance those two needs in their daily lives.
- Model proper social behaviors. Let your child observe you in a variety of social situations and peak in on your problem-solving sessions. Organize play groups, enroll them in an extracurricular activity, or encourage them to participate in church or community organizations so they can practice social skills in a safe space.
- If your child’s antisocial behavior frequently turns into aggression, they could be suffering from antisocial personality disorder. Talk to a doctor or counselor for an assessment.
Good social skills are an essential part of living a successful adult life. Give your child the tools they need to create their best possible life by building their defenses against social isolation.