Major Life Events as Predictors of Loneliness in Adolescence


The present study investigates the validity of early major life events as predictors of loneliness among 978 high-school students. A cross-sectional research design was utilized to examine the relationship between latent classes of six major life events and feelings of family-related and peer-related loneliness. Latent class analysis revealed three distinct event typologies: a normative group, a mover and divorce group, and a loss and illness group. Subsequent logistic regression revealed that membership of the movers and divorce group was associated with family-related loneliness, but not with peer-related loneliness. Membership of the loss and illness group was not associated with family-related or peer-related loneliness. The study lends some support to theoretical approaches that associate loneliness with major life events. However, the mixed study results underscore the relevance of investigating a spectrum of life events and distinguishing between different sources of loneliness.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Access options

Buy single article

Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.

US$ 39.95

Price includes VAT for USA

Subscribe to journal

Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.

US$ 99

This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.

Fig. 1


  1. Akaike, H. (1987). Factor analysis and the AIC. Psychometrika, 52, 317–332. doi:10.1007/BF02294359.

  2. Cacioppo, J. T., Hawkley, L. C., & Berntson, G. G. (2003). The anatomy of loneliness. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 12, 71–74. doi:10.1111/1467-8721.01232.

  3. Cacioppo, J. T., & Patrick, W. (2008). Loneliness. New York: Norton.

  4. Cavanagh, S. E., & Huston, A. C. (2008). The timing of family instability and children’s social development. Journal of Marriage and Family, 70, 1258–1270.

  5. Curtin, L. S., & Siegel, A. W. (2003). Social functioning in adolescents with epilepsy. Children’s Health Care, 32, 103–114. doi:10.1207/S15326888CHC3202_2.

  6. DiTommaso, E., Brannen, C., & Best, L. (2004). Measurement and validity characteristics of the short version of the Social and Emotional Loneliness Scale for Adults. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 64, 99–119. doi:10.1177/0013164403258450.

  7. Goossens, L., Lasgaard, M., Luyckx, K., Vanhalst, J., Mathias, S., & Masy, E. (2009). Loneliness and solitude in adolescence: A confirmatory factor analysis of alternative models. Personality and Individual Differences, 47, 890–894. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2009.07.011.

  8. Hagenaars, J. A., & McCutcheon, A. L. (2002). Applied latent class analysis. New York: Cambridge University Press.

  9. Heinrich, L., & Gullone, E. (2006). The clinical significance of loneliness. Clinical Psychology Review, 26, 695–718. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2006.04.002.

  10. Hymel, S., Tarulli, D., Thomson, L. H., & Terrell-Deutsch, B. (1999). Loneliness through the eyes of children. In K. Rotenberg & S. Hymel (Eds.), Loneliness in childhood and adolescence (pp. 296–322). New York: Cambridge University Press.

  11. Ireland, J. L., & Qualter, P. (2008). Bullying and social and emotional loneliness in a sample of adult male prisoners. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 31, 19–29. doi:10.1016/j.ijlp.2007.11.005.

  12. Jones, D. C. (1992). Parental divorce, family conflict and friendship networks. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 9, 219–235. doi:10.1177/0265407592092004.

  13. Kelley, M. L., Finkel, L. B., & Ashby, J. (2003). Geographic mobility, family, and maternal variables as related to the psychosocial adjustment of military children. Military Medicine, 168, 1019–1024.

  14. Lasgaard, M. (2007). Reliability and validity of the Danish version of the UCLA Loneliness Scale. Personality and Individual Differences, 42, 1359–1366. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2006.10.013.

  15. Lasgaard, M. (2009). Loneliness in adolescence: Conceptualization, methodology, and empirical evidence. Aarhus: Department of Psychology, Aarhus University.

  16. Lasgaard, M., Goossens, L., & Elklit, A. (2011). Loneliness, depressive symptomatology, and suicide ideation in adolescence. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 39, 137–150. doi:10.1007/s10802-010-9442-x.

  17. Lo, Y., Mendell, N., & Rubin, D. (2001). Testing the number of components in a normal mixture. Biometrika, 88, 767–778. doi:10.1093/biomet/88.3.767.

  18. McCutcheon, A. L. (1987). Latent class analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

  19. McInnis, G. J., & White, J. H. (2001). A phenomenological exploration of loneliness in the older adult. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 15, 128–139. doi:10.1053/apnu.2001.23751.

  20. Miller, G. (2011). Why loneliness is hazardous to your health. Science, 331, 138–140. doi:10.1126/science.331.6014.138.

  21. Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. O. (1998). Mplus user’s guide (6th ed.). Los Angeles: CA: Muthén & Muthén.

  22. Noll, R. B., Vannatta, K., Koontz, K., Kalinyak, K., Bukowski, W. M., & Davies, W. H. (1996). Peer relationships and emotional well-being of youngsters with sickle-cell disease. Child Development, 67, 423–436. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.1996.tb01743.x.

  23. Nylund, K. L., Asparouhov, T., & Muthén, B. O. (2007a). Deciding on the number of classes in latent class analysis and growth mixture modeling. Structural Equation Modeling, 14, 535–569. doi:10.1080/10705510701575396.

  24. Nylund, K., Bellmore, A., Nishina, A., & Graham, S. (2007b). Subtypes, severity, and structural stability of peer victimization. Child Development, 78, 1706–1722. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2007.01097.x.

  25. Peplau, L. A., & Perlman, D. (1979). Blueprint for a social psychological theory of loneliness. In M. Cook & G. Wilson (Eds.), Love and attraction (pp. 99–108). Oxford, England: Pergamon.

  26. Perlman, D., & Peplau, L. A. (1981). Toward a social psychology of loneliness. In S. Duck & R. Gilmour (Eds.), Personal relationships 3 (pp. 31–56). New York: Academic Press.

  27. Ramaswamy, V., Desarbo, W. S., Reibstein, D. J., & Robinson, W. T. (1993). An empirical pooling approach for estimating marketing mix elasticities with PIMS data. Marketing Science, 12, 103–124. doi:10.1287/mksc.12.1.103.

  28. Rubenstein, C., & Shaver, P. (1982). The experience of loneliness. In L. Peplau & D. Perlman (Eds.), Loneliness: A sourcebook of current theory, research and therapy (pp. 206–223). New York: Wiley.

  29. Russell, D. (1996). UCLA Loneliness Scale (Version 3). Journal of Personality Assessment, 66, 20–40. doi:10.1207/s15327752jpa6601_2.

  30. Schwartz, G. (1978). Estimating the dimensions of a model. Annuals of Statistics, 6, 461–464. doi:10.1214/aos/1176344136.

  31. Sclove, S. L. (1987). Application of model-selection criteria to some problems in multivariate analysis. Psychometrika, 52, 333–334. doi:10.1007/BF02294360.

  32. Shaver, P., & Rubenstein, C. (1980). Childhood attachment experience and adult loneliness. In L. Wheeler (Ed.), Review of personality and social psychology (pp. 42–73). Beverly Hills: Sage.

  33. Simmons, R. G., Burgeson, R., Carlton-Ford, S., & Blyth, D. A. (1987). The impact of cumulative change in early adolescence. Child Development, 58, 1220–1234.

  34. Stephan, E., Fäth, M., & Lamm, H. (1988). Loneliness as related to various personality and environmental measures. Social Behaviour and Personality, 16, 169–174. doi:10.2224/sbp.1988.16.2.169.

  35. Swearingen, E. M., & Cohen, L. H. (1985). Life events and psychological distress. Developmental Psychology, 21, 1045–1054. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.21.6.1045.

  36. Terrell-Deutsch, B. (1999). The conceptualization and measurement of childhood loneliness. In K. Rotenberg & S. Hymel (Eds.), Loneliness in childhood and adolescence (pp. 11–33). New York: Cambridge University Press.

  37. Wallerstein, J. S., & Blakeslee, S. (1989). Second chances. New York: Tichnor & Fields.

  38. Weiss, R. (1973). Loneliness. Cambridge: MIT Press.

  39. Weiss, R. (1982). Issues in the study of loneliness. In L. A. Peplau & D. Perlman (Eds.), Loneliness: A sourcebook of current theory, research and therapy (pp. 351–378). New York: Wiley.

  40. Yang, C. (2006). Evaluating latent class analysis models in qualitative phenotype identification. Computer and Statistical Data Analysis, 50, 1090–1104. doi:10.1016/j.csda.2004.11.004.

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Mathias Lasgaard.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Lasgaard, M., Armour, C., Bramsen, R.H. et al. Major Life Events as Predictors of Loneliness in Adolescence. J Child Fam Stud 25, 631–637 (2016) doi:10.1007/s10826-015-0243-2

Download citation


  • Loneliness
  • Life events
  • Adolescence
  • Latent class analysis
  • Family