Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to experiencing feelings of loneliness. Changes in different social contexts and the inability to cope with these changes can result in different types of loneliness. According to the multidimensional view on loneliness, loneliness can be experienced in relationships with peers and parents and can be placed in a broader perspective by taking into account attitudes toward aloneness (i.e., positive and negative). However, we do not yet know how loneliness and attitudes toward aloneness develop across adolescence. These developmental trends were examined in two samples of Flemish adolescents consisting of 834 adolescents (61.9% girls, M age = 14.84; Sample 1), and 968 adolescents (58.6% girls, M age = 14.82; Sample 2), respectively. Adolescents filled out the Loneliness and Aloneness Scale for Children and Adolescents (LACA) during regular school hours on three (Sample 1) and four (Sample 2) measurement occasions with a 1-year interval. Latent growth curve modeling (LGCM) was applied. In line with theoretical notions, adolescents’ parent-related loneliness and positive attitude toward aloneness were expected to increase, and adolescents’ peer-related loneliness and negative attitude toward aloneness were expected to decrease. Clear evidence was found for the hypotheses regarding attitudes toward aloneness. The results regarding peer-related loneliness were inconsistent across samples and parent-related loneliness decreased, which was in contrast with theoretical expectations. In general, the two types of loneliness and attitudes toward aloneness changed in different directions during adolescence, suggesting the added value of a multidimensional view on loneliness.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Barrett, P. (2007). Structural equation modeling: Adjudging model fit. Personality and Individual Differences, 42, 815–824. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2006.09.018.
Boomsma, A. (2000). Reporting analyses of covariance structures. Structural Equation Modeling: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 7, 461–483. doi:10.1207/ S15328007SEM0703_6.
Brown, T. A. (2006). Confirmatory factor analysis for applied research. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Chen, F. F. (2007). Sensitivity of goodness of fit indexes to lack of measurement invariance. Structural Equation Modeling: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 14, 464–504. doi:10.1080/10705510701301834.
Cohn, L. D. (1991). Sex differences in the course of personality development: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 109, 252–266. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.109.2.252.
Connolly, J. A., & Johnson, A. M. (1996). Adolescents’ romantic relationships and the structure and quality of their close interpersonal ties. Personal Relationships, 3, 185–195. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6811.1996.tb00111.x.
Corsano, P., Majorano, M., & Champretavy, L. (2006). Psychological well-being in adolescence: The contribution of interpersonal relations and experience of being alone. Adolescence, 41, 341–353.
Duncan, T. E., & Duncan, S. C. (2009). The ABC’s of LGM: An introductory guide to latent variable growth curve modeling. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 3, 979–991. doi:10.1111/j.1751-9004.2009.00224.x.
Furman, W., & Buhrmester, D. (1992). Age and sex differences in perceptions of networks of personal relationships. Child Development, 63, 103–115. doi:10.2307/1130905.
Furman, W., & Collins, A. (2009). Adolescent romantic relationships and experiences. In K. H. Rubin, W. Bukowski, & B. Laursen (Eds.), Handbook of peer interactions, relationships, and groups (pp. 341–360). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Goossens, L. (2006). Affect, emotion, and loneliness in adolescence. In S. Jackson, & L. Goossens (Eds.), Handbook of adolescent development (pp. 51–70). Hove, UK: Psychology Press.
Goossens, L. (Ed.) (2016). Leuvense Eenzaamheidsschaal voor Kinderen en Adolescenten: Handleiding [Loneliness and aloneness scale for children and adolescents: Manual]. Leuven, Belgium: Acco.
Hadiwijaya, H., Klimstra, T. A., Vermunt, J. K., Branje, S. J. T., & Meeus, W. H. J. (2016). On the development of harmony, turbulence, and independence in parent-adolescent relationships: A five-wave longitudinal study. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. Advance online publication. doi:10.1007/s10964-016-0627-7.
Heinrich, L. A., & Gullone, E. (2006). The clinical significance of loneliness: A literature review. Clinical Psychology Review, 26, 695–718. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2006.04.002.
Houghton, S., Hattie, J., Wood, L., Carroll, A., Martin, K., & Tan, C. (2014). Conceptualising loneliness in adolescents: Development and validation of a self-report instrument. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 45, 604–616. doi:10.1007/s10578-013-0429-z.
Hu, L., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 6, 1–55. doi:10.1080/10705519909540118.
Kline, R. B. (2005). Principles and practice of structural equation modeling. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Larson, R. W. (1997). The emergence of solitude as a constructive domain of experience in early adolescence. Child Development, 68, 80–93. doi:10.2307/1131927.
Larson, R., & Richards, M. H. (1991). Daily companionship in late childhood and early adolescence: Changing developmental contexts. Child Development, 62, 284–300. doi:10.2307/1131003.
Larson, R. W., Richards, M. H., Moneta, G., Holmbeck, G., & Duckett, E. (1996). Changes in adolescents’ daily interactions with their families from ages 10 to 18: Disengagement and transformation. Developmental Psychology, 32, 744–754. doi:10.1037/0012-1622.214.171.1244.
Laursen, B., & Hartl, A. C. (2013). Understanding loneliness during adolescence: Developmental changes that increase the risk of perceived social isolation. Journal of Adolescence, 36, 1261–1268. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2013.06.003.
Little, R. J. A. (1988). A test for missing completely ad random for multivariate data with missing values. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 83, 1198–1202. doi:10.1080/01621459.1988.10478722.
Little, T. D., Cunningham, W. A., Shahar, G., & Widaman, K. F. (2002). To parcel or not to parcel: Exploring the question, weighing the merits. Structural Equation Modeling, 9, 151–173. doi:10.1207/S15328007SEM0902_1.
Long, C. R., & Averill, J. R. (2003). Solitude: An exploration of benefits of being alone. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 33, 21–44. 10.1111/1468-5914.00204.
MacEvoy, J. P., Weeks, M. S., & Asher, S. R. (2011). Loneliness. In B. B. Brown & M. J. Prinstein (Eds.), Encyclopedia of adolescence (Vol. 2, pp. 178-187). San Diego, CA: Academic Press. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-373915-5.00116.9.
Maes, M., Klimstra, T., Van den Noortgate, W., & Goossens, L. (2015). Factor structure and measurement invariance of a multidimensional loneliness scale: Comparisons across gender and age. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24, 1829–1837. doi:10.1007/s10826-014-9986-4.
Marcoen, A., Goossens, L., & Caes, P. (1987). Loneliness in pre through late adolescence: Exploring the contributions of a multidimensional approach. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 16, 561–577. doi:10.1007/BF02138821.
Marcoen, A., & Goossens, L. (1993). Loneliness, attitude toward aloneness, and solitude: Age differences and developmental significance during adolescence. In S. Jackson, H. Rodriguez-Tome (Eds.), Adolescence and its social worlds (pp. 197–227). Hove, UK: Erlbaum.
Matsunaga, M. (2008). Item parceling in structural equation modeling: A primer. Communication Methods and Measures, 2, 260–293. doi:10.1080/19312450802458935.
Majorano, M., Musetti, A., Brondino, M., & Corsano, P. (2015). Loneliness, emotional autonomy and motivation for solitary behavior during adolescence. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24, 3436–3447. doi:10.1007/s10826-015-0145-3.
Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. O. (1998-2012). Mplus user’s guide. 7th ed. Los Angeles, CA: Muthén & Muthén.
Perlman, D., & Peplau, L. A. (1981). Toward a social psychology of loneliness. In S. Duck, R. Gilmour (Eds.), Personal relationships in disorder (pp. 31–56). London, UK: Academic Press. Vol. 3.
Qualter, P., Brown, S. L., Rotenberg, K. J., Vanhalst, J., Harris, R. A., Goossens, L., Bangee, M., & Munn, P. (2013). Trajectories of loneliness during childhood and adolescence: Predictors and health outcomes. Journal of Adolescence, 36, 1283–1293. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2013.01.005.
Qualter, P., Vanhalst, J., Harris, R. A., van Roekel, E., Lodder, G., Bangee, M., et al. (2015). Loneliness across the life span. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10, 250–264. doi:10.1177/1745691615568999.
Rushton, J. P., Brainerd, C. J., & Pressley, M. (1983). Behavioral development and construct validity: The principle of aggregation. Psychological Bulletin, 94, 18–38. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.94.1.18.
Russell, D. (1982). The measurement of loneliness. In L. A. Peplau, D. Perlman (Eds.), Loneliness: A sourcebook of current theory, research, and therapy (pp. 81–104). New York, NY: Wiley.
Satorra, A., & Bentler, P. M. (2001). A scaled difference chi-square test statistic for moment structure analysis. Psychometrika, 66, 507–514. doi:10.1007/BF02296192.
Scharf, M., Wiseman, H., & Farah, F. (2011). Parent-adolescent relationships and social adjustment: The case of a collectivistic culture. International Journal of Psychology, 46, 177–190. doi:10.1080/00207594.2010.528424.
Steinberg, L., & Morris, A. S. (2001). Adolescent development. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 83–110. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.52.1.83.
Teppers, E., Klimstra, T. A., Van Damme, C., Luyckx, K., Vanhalst, J., & Goossens, L. (2013). Personality traits, loneliness, and attitudes toward aloneness in adolescence. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 30, 1045–1063. doi:10.1177/0265407513481445.
Ulman, J. B. (2013). Structural equation modeling. In B. G. Tabachnick, L. S. Fidell (Eds.), Using multivariate statistics. 6th ed. (pp. 681–785). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.
Vandenberg, R. J., & Lance, C. E. (2000). A review and synthesis of the measurement invariance literature: Suggestions, practices, and recommendations for organizational research. Organizational Research Methods, 3, 4–70. doi:10.1177/109442810031002.
Van de Schoot, R., Lugtig, P., & Hox, J. (2012). A checklist for testing measurement invariance. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 9, 486–492. doi:10.1080/17405629.2012.686740.
Van Dulmen, M. H. M., & Goossens, L. (2013). Loneliness trajectories. Journal of Adolescence, 36, 1247–1249. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2013.08.001.
Vanhalst, J., Goossens, L., Luyckx, K., Scholte, R. H. J., & Engels, R. C. M. E. (2013). The development of loneliness from mid- to late adolescence: Trajectory classes, personality traits, and psychosocial functioning. Journal of Adolescence, 36, 1305–1312. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2012.04.002.
Vanhalst, J., Luyckx, K., Scholte, R. H. J., Engels, R. C. M. E., & Goossens, L. (2012). Low self-esteem as a risk factor for loneliness in adolescence: Perceived—but not actual—social acceptance as an underlying mechanism. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 41, 1067–1081. doi:10.1007/s10802-013-9751-y.
Van Roekel, E., Scholte, R. H., Verhagen, M., Goossens, L., & Engels, R. C. (2010). Loneliness in adolescence: Gene x environment interactions involving the serotonin transporter gene. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 51, 747–754. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2010.02225.x.
Weeks, M. S., & Asher, S. R. (2012). Loneliness in childhood: Toward the next generation of assessment and research. In J. B. Benson (Ed.), Advances in child development and behavior (pp. 1–39). San Diego, CA: Academic Press. Vol. 42.
This study was funded by Fund For Scientific Research Flanders (FOW) under project number G.0565.15 N.
S.D. conceived of the study, performed the statistical analyses, interpreted the data, and drafted the manuscript; M.M. helped to perform the statistical analyses, participated in the interpretation of the data, and critically revised the manuscript; J.V. collected the data and critically revised the manuscript; P.B. critically revised the manuscript. L.G. conceived of the study, participated in the interpretation of the data, helped to draft the manuscript, and critically revised the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
All procedures 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. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
About this article
Cite this article
Danneel, S., Maes, M., Vanhalst, J. et al. Developmental Change in Loneliness and Attitudes Toward Aloneness in Adolescence. J Youth Adolescence 47, 148–161 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-017-0685-5
- Attitudes toward aloneness
- Developmental changes
- Longitudinal measurement invariance