Trait and state levels of loneliness in early and late adolescents: Examining the differential reactivity hypothesis

E. van Roekel, Maaike Verhagen, Rutger C M E Engels, Ron H J Scholte, Stephanie Cacioppo, John T Cacioppo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
65 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

According to the differential reactivity hypothesis, lonely individuals respond differently to their environment compared to nonlonely individuals, which may sustain their loneliness levels. However, this interesting hypothesis has not yet been explored in daily life: Do lonely individuals feel lonely all the time, or do they feel more or less lonely in specific social contexts? The main aim of the present study was to test the differential reactivity hypothesis in daily life by examining in three samples whether trait levels of loneliness affected the levels of state loneliness in different social contexts. We used baseline questionnaires to measure trait loneliness and the Experience Sampling Method to collect data on state loneliness, in early adolescents (N = 269, Mage = 14.49, 59% female) and late adolescents (N = 223, Mage = 19.60, 91% female) from the Netherlands and late adolescents from the United States (N = 126, Mage = 19.20, 51% female). Results provided evidence for the differential reactivity hypothesis in the total sample, as high lonely adolescents experienced higher levels of state loneliness in situations in which they were alone than low lonely adolescents, but also benefited more from being with intimate company than low lonely adolescents. In sum, the present study provided evidence for the differential reactivity hypothesis and showed that the experience of loneliness in daily life was remarkably similar across age and culture. Our findings provide important insights into the daily experiences of trait lonely people, which may provide starting points for interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)888-899
JournalJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
Volume47
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Keywords

  • DEPRESSIVE SYMPTOMS
  • HEALTH
  • LIFE
  • TRANSITION

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