Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 26, Issue 8, pp 2059–2069 | Cite as

Intimate and Relational Loneliness in Adolescence

  • Marlies Maes
  • Janne Vanhalst
  • Wim Van den Noortgate
  • Luc Goossens
Original Paper


Research on peer-related loneliness in adolescence has paid insufficient attention to the distinction between intimate loneliness (i.e., in a dyadic relationship with a friend) and relational loneliness (i.e., in the broader peer group). This study examined the correlations among a broad set of loneliness scales. A sample of adolescents from Belgium (n = 282; 60% female) completed 8 subscales of 6 established loneliness measures. Results revealed high correlations among these measures. At the same time, confirmatory factor analysis revealed the two expected factors, reflecting intimate and relational loneliness. Furthermore, it was found that boys experienced on average more intimate loneliness than girls, and girls experienced on average more relational loneliness than boys. As different types of loneliness are related to problems in different domains, and adolescents may experience one type of loneliness but not the other, it is essential to know which loneliness measure taps into which type of loneliness. The present study not only provides evidence for the distinction between intimate and relational loneliness, but also shows which type is covered by which of six commonly used loneliness measures. Based on these findings, researchers can now make a more deliberate selection of scales for future research, and can better interpret and integrate findings from previous studies that used different loneliness measures.


Intimate loneliness Relational loneliness Confirmatory factor analysis Gender differences Measurement invariance 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of School Psychology and Development in ContextKU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  2. 2.Research Foundation Flanders (FWO)BruxellesBelgium
  3. 3.Research Group of Methodology of Educational SciencesKU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

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