This study explored the sex-specific associations between friendship trust and the psychological well-being of young Swedes from late adolescence to early adulthood.
A random sample of native Swedes born in 1990 was surveyed at age 19 years and again at age 23 years regarding their own well-being and their relationships with a maximum of five self-named peers. The response rate was 31.3%, resulting in 782 cases to be analysed. We used sex-stratified structural equation models to explore the associations between trust and well-being. Psychological well-being was constructed as the latent variable in the measurement part. The structural part accounted for the autocorrelation of trust with respect to well-being over time and incorporated the cross-lagged effects between late adolescence and early adulthood.
It was found that trust increased while well-being decreased for young men and remained stable for young women from 19 to 23 years of age. The young women reported lower well-being at both time points, whereas no sex difference was found for trust. Based on model fit comparisons, a simple model without forward or reward causation was accepted for young men, whereas reversed causation from well-being to trust was suggested for young women. Subsequent analysis based on these assumptions confirmed the reversed effect for young women.
The findings suggest that young people do not benefit from trustful social relations to the same extent as adult populations. Young women who express impaired well-being run a greater risk of being members of networks characterized by low friendship trust over time.