The separateness of social and emotional loneliness in childhood

Pamela Qualter, Penny Munn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Citations (Scopus)


Much of the childhood loneliness research is misleading because it confounds objective and subjective measures of loneliness. The overall aim of this research was to examine the relationship between social isolation and emotional loneliness. Method: Three extreme groups were identified in a sample of 640 4-9-year-old children. There were two ('rejected' [Nˆ60] and 'lonely' [Nˆ146]) in which social and emotional loneliness were unrelated. The first were socially isolated (rejected) but they did not feel lonely. The second group felt lonely but they were not socially isolated. The third group ('rejected/ lonely') consisted of 61 children who were rejected and also felt lonely. Results: Felt loneliness and social rejection were experienced together by 61 children, but 206 children experienced either one or the other, but not both. The fourth and largest group [Nˆ374] were neither rejected nor lonely. Differences between the groups were found on direct observation measures of solitariness, sociability, and aggression; peer reports of shyness, aggression, prosocial behaviour, disruptive behaviour and inability to take teasing; self-reports of self-worth and competence, self-reports of supportive relationships; and measures of language use.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-244
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2002


  • aggression
  • behaviour problems
  • depression
  • self-concept
  • social and emotional loneliness
  • children


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