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'I don't have the best life': a qualitative exploration of adolescent loneliness
Objectives: Loneliness is considered a significant contributor to adolescent suicidality and mental illness. This study explored the nature of loneliness, aloneness, and friendships as described by early-mid aged adolescents.
Methods: In total, 33 (13 male and 20 female) adolescents (aged 10-15) from three primary and two secondary schools located in low, medium, and high socioeconomic areas in Perth, Western Australia were interviewed. Inductive analysis of verbatim transcripts incorporated constant comparative coding, thus forming conceptual categories, relationships, and theory.
Results: Loneliness was identified as a multifactorial experience centering on two main constructs: 1) connectedness with friends, and 2) perception of aloneness. Qualitative insights support the concept of adolescents 'positioned' on continuums within these two constructs; 1) friendship- with connected and disconnected anchors, and 2) perception of aloneness - with positive and negative anchors.
Conclusions: This study highlighted that loneliness is multidimensional and is influenced both by the existence (or not) of meaningful friendships as well as by how adolescents frame and experience being alone. Being alone can have both positive and negative associations for adolescents, and this appears to be influenced by the setting and experienced frequency of being alone. Aloneness can be buffered by friendship networks, and experienced more negatively when friendships and social connectedness are lacking. This epitomizes vulnerabilities associated with unstable friendships. Assisting adolescents to both develop secure friendships and positive attitudes towards aloneness has an important role to play in reducing adolescent loneliness as well as decreasing the risk of associated negative outcomes. These study results provide direction for practitioners in developing targeted approaches to prevent and reduce loneliness; this includes carefully considering policy and practices that could reduce (or unintentionally induce) loneliness. As the school is a setting in which adolescents are especially vulnerable to feelings of loneliness, school-based strategies could be particularly useful and wide-reaching.
Publication titleJournal of Child & Adolescent Behavior
Department/SchoolFaculty of Education
PublisherOMICS Publishing Group
Place of publicationUnited States