Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 9
  • Print publication year: 1999
  • Online publication date: October 2009

13 - Social Self-Discrepancy Theory and Loneliness During Childhood and Adolescence


In this chapter, we are interested in loneliness in children and adolescents and its relevance to their adjustment. The subjective experience of loneliness as a negative affective state associated with deficits in the formation of social relationships has long been recognized as an important area of study in adults (see Marangoni & Ickes, 1989, for a review). However, until the past decade, loneliness was relatively neglected in the child and adolescent literature. In recent years, a growing body of literature has emerged to suggest that children and adolescents experience feelings of loneliness related to problems in social relationships. Indeed, approximately 10% of children between kindergarten through eighth grade report feeling very lonely (Asher et al., 1984; Asher & Wheeler, 1985; Cassidy & Asher, 1992; Parkhurst & Asher, 1992). These and other studies highlight the fact that loneliness can occur with alarming frequency across child and adolescent development.

Loneliness is related to a range of emotional, social, and behavioral problems for children, adolescents, and adults. Emotional problems include low self-esteem (Hymel et al., 1990), depression (Goswick & Jones, 1981), and social anxiety (Moore & Schultz, 1983). Social problems include peer rejection and victimization, lack of friendships, and lack of highquality friendships (Asher et al., 1990; Asher & Wheeler, 1985; Boivin & Hymel, 1996; Crick & Ladd, 1993; Kochenderfer & Ladd, 1996; Parker & Asher, 1993b). Behavioral problems include shyness, social withdrawal, spending more time alone (Horowitz, French, & Anderson, 1982; Jones et al., 1981; Russell et al., 1980), dating frequency (Brennan, 1982), and decreased participation in religious and extracurricular school activities (Brennan, 1982).