Developmental Change in Loneliness and Attitudes Toward Aloneness in Adolescence

Abstract

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.

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Funding

This study was funded by Fund For Scientific Research Flanders (FOW) under project number G.0565.15 N.

Author Contributions

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.

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Correspondence to Sofie Danneel.

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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.

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

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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

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Keywords

  • Loneliness
  • Attitudes toward aloneness
  • Developmental changes
  • Longitudinal measurement invariance