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Solitude in children and adolescents: A review of the research literature



Although there is a substantial body of research on loneliness in children and adolescents, there is relatively less research evidence on solitude, as a state of being alone, and more specifically, on facets of solitude such as attitude toward aloneness, ability to be alone, and positive aloneness. In this paper, after some conceptual clarifications, research is reviewed on understanding the nature of solitude; affect of time alone; attitude toward aloneness; the links between solitude and adjustment; and the associations between solitude and other aloneness concepts. Finally, suggestions for future research on solitude in childhood and adolescence are offered.
Solitude in Children and Adolescents:
A Review of the Research Literature
Evangelia P. Galanaki
University of Athens, Greece
Psychology and Education: An Interdisciplinary Journal. Special Issue:
Loneliness and Solitude in Children and Adolescents, 2013, 50(3-4), 79-88.
Although there is a substantial body of research on loneliness in children and
adolescents, there is relatively less research evidence on solitude, as a state of being
alone, and more specifically, on facets of solitude such as attitude toward aloneness,
ability to be alone, and positive aloneness. In this paper, after some conceptual
clarifications, research is reviewed on understanding the nature of solitude;
affect of time alone; attitude toward aloneness; the links between solitude and
adjustment; and the associations between solitude and other aloneness
concepts. Finally, suggestions for future research on solitude in childhood and
adolescence are offered.
At this time, there is a substantial body of research on the subjective,
painful experience of loneliness in children and adolescents. Its frequency,
intensity and duration, as well as its antecedents and consequences, have been
systematically investigated (for reviews and recent research see Asher &
Paquette, 2003; Goossens, 2006; Margalit, 2010; Rokach, 2012; Rotenberg &
Hymel, 1999). However, relatively little research evidence exists on solitude,
that is, the state of being alone, and more specifically, on children’s and
adolescents’ understanding of solitude, attitude toward aloneness, ability to be
alone, and positive aloneness. Also, there are only a few studies attempting to
disentangle the complex links between the various aloneness experiences in
children and adolescents, by examining, for example, the association between
being alone and feeling lonely. These empirical investigations will be reviewed
here, with the aim of providing a clearer picture of the advancements and the
gaps in the research literature. More specifically, after some conceptual
clarifications, research will be reviewed on understanding and the nature of
solitude; affect of time alone; attitude toward aloneness; the links between
solitude and adjustment; and the associations between solitude and other
aloneness concepts. Finally, suggestions for future research on solitude in
childhood and adolescence will be offered.
Concepts of Aloneness
The terms aloneness, loneliness, and solitude appear to have been used
interchangeably in the literature, and this has resulted in conceptual confusion.
The three terms are not identical. Aloneness is the objective (physical), neutral
state of being alone. Loneliness is a subjective, painful experience, stemming
80 Solitude in Children and Adolescents
from a perceived lack of intimacy and/or belonging (Peplau & Perlman, 1982;
Weiss, 1973). Aloneness may or may not result in loneliness, and loneliness
may be experienced even in the presence of others. The desire or longing for
contact is a critical aspect of loneliness. Solitude is a state of aloneness which
may be either negative or positive. When negative, it can be equated with
loneliness; when positive, it is a constructive and beneficial experience. In this
sense, it is usually voluntary and occurs in the absence of others, though not
always (e.g., a student may feel solitary while studying in a public library).
Solitude is a vital social phenomenon, in the sense that it has a strong impact on
the social life of individuals and societies (Long & Averill, 2003). The desire for
aloneness and the “awareness of volition” (Wolfe & Laufer, 1974) are critical
aspects of solitude.
Although related, the term attitude toward aloneness is different from
solitude. The former is the individual’s positive or negative evaluation of
aloneness, while the latter is the constructive use of time alone (Marcoen &
Goossens, 1993). Also, the term ability to be alone has been operationally
defined and measured in ways similar to the attitude toward aloneness.
Several facets of solitude have been described, and the value of solitude in
our lives has been analyzed from various viewpoints. Winnicott (1958/1965)
introduced the “capacity to be alone” as a major developmental achievement and
regarded solitude in childhood as “a most precious possession” (p. 30). “Active
solitude” was described as a constructive use of time alone and as a preparation
for intimacy; “solitude skills” (as analogous to social skills) enable the
individual not to feel lonely when alone (Rubenstein & Shaver, 1982a). Various
forms of self reflection, personality development, and creative activity take
place during solitude (Storr, 1988). In cases of mental disorder, solitude may
become a “healing experience” (Suedfeld, 1982). This type of aloneness may be
an “ecological niche” (Larson, Csikszentimihalyi, & Graef, 1982), including
both benefits and dangers. Larson (1997) has also conceptualized solitude as
emotional renewal and a “strategic retreat” from social life. Others (Buchholz,
1997) have gone so far as regarding solitude as a developmental need equally
important to attachment throughout the life span.
Positive aloneness experiences during childhood and adolescence have been
rather neglected by researchers. Marcoen and Goossens (1993) have
acknowledged the lack of a measure of solitude for these age periods. Possible
explanations for this neglect may be the extremely painful character of
loneliness, which may have led researchers to avoid dealing with it; the common
belief in many cultures that being alone may be a pathological or dangerous
state; the long-standing view that children do not feel lonely, let alone use
aloneness constructively; and the ambivalent nature of aloneness, in the sense
that one can feel lonely when with others and not feel lonely when alone. This
ambivalence is reflected in the linguistic confusion among the various aloneness
concepts in several languages.
Understanding of Solitude
Children’s ability to understand solitude is a rather neglected area. With the
exception of one study (Demos, 1974), all other investigations showed that
during middle and late childhood, the ability to differentiate between the neutral
state of being alone and loneliness is active (Galanaki, 2004; Hymel, Tarulli,
Hayden Thomson, & Terrell-Deutsch, 1999; Kristensen, 1995; Wolfe, 1978;
Wolfe & Laufer, 1974). Children’s ability to understand the desire to be alone
and the fact that aloneness may have positive functions too, which is the essence
of solitude, is another neglected research topic. During early childhood, in
various cultures, this understanding appears to be limited, although it is not
absent (Galanaki, 2004; Wolfe, 1978; Wolfe & Laufer, 1974).
The majority of 7 year olds are able to define privacy, to which the
meanings of controlling access to information and being alone are most
frequently attributed; the understanding of “being alone when you want to”
appears at age 9, and of “being alone and unbothered” at age 11 (Wolfe &
Laufer, 1974). In this study, the ages between 7 and 13 seemed to be crucial for
the understanding of the meaning and the significance of aloneness.
Nature of Solitude
Children have been found to be able to articulate a variety of solitude uses,
which were the following: peace, quietude and relaxation; decrease of anxiety,
tension, and anger; reflection, problem-solving, planning ahead; daydreaming;
self-control and mastery; privacy/secrecy, freedom from criticism; activities;
and concentration (Galanaki, 2004).
Among adolescents, free-floating thought (e.g., fantasizing, daydreaming,
talking to self, thinking about past or future) was the most frequent type of
solitary activity, followed by various forms of passive entertainment other than
watching TV (e.g., listening to music, reading), sleeping, and personal grooming
(Larson & Csikszentmihalyi, 1978). Similar data emerged in another
investigation (Larson et al., 1982): housework, self-care, studying, watching TV,
personal reading. And a more detailed description of the content of solitude is
offered by Larson and Richards (1991), including school-age children also (9-15
year olds): media use, personal maintenance, schoolwork, playing games,
creative activities, eating, chores and errands, sports, transportation, and
socializing. When reviewing these findings, Larson (1990) categorized them
into productive activities (work at a job, schoolwork), maintenance tasks
(cooking, cleaning, personal care), and leisure activities (watching TV, reading,
listening to music, daydreaming).
Self-reflection is an important activity of adolescents’ time spent alone.
When explaining the positive change that had occurred in their lives during the
previous two years, adolescents referred to time alone as an opportunity to do
things, be constructive, reflect, and think (Freeman, Csikszentmihalyi, &
Larson, 1986); this has been found to be true especially for talented adolescents
82 Solitude in Children and Adolescents
(Csikszentimihalyi, Rathunde, & Whalen, 1993). Creative reflection emerged as
a crucial use of solitude among Italian adolescents too (Ammaniti, Ercolani, &
Tambelli, 1989). The positive attitude toward aloneness was found to be
associated with greater introspectiveness among Belgian adolescents (Goossens
& Marcoen, 1999a), and highly introspective adolescents spend more time alone
and engage in artistic and cultural activities (Hansel, Mechanic, & Brondolo,
1986). The existence and quality of self-reflection in time alone during
childhood has not been investigated yet. Also, research has not focused on the
benefits of solitude which have been found in adults (e.g. Long & Averill, 2003)
among children and adolescents, by means of, for example, a self-report
instrument assessing a variety of uses of voluntary aloneness.
Affect of Time Alone
During preadolescence, spending much time alone is correlated with less
positive average affect, although the correlations are modest (Larson &
Richards, 1991), and this affect does not improve from preadolescence through
early adolescence (Larson, 1997). The individual’s affective state when being
alone was found to include both positive and negative aspects during
adolescence. While they feel more lonely and hostile, less happy and alert, and
weaker and more passive when alone (Larson & Csikszentmihalyi, 1978),
adolescents also report improved cognitive state, that is, better concentration,
greater ease in concentration, and lower self-consciousness (Larson &
Csikszentmihalyi, 1980). Aloneness is experienced as the loneliest part of daily
life (Larson, 1999), and loneliness is highest when the adolescent is alone during
Friday or Saturday nights (Larson et al., 1982). These findings support the
ambivalence or the paradox of solitude (Larson, 1999): solitude may actively
being searched for due to its self-enhancing functions, but at the same time it
may be experienced as a painful state.
Some other investigations have shown no association between the positive
and the negative attitude toward aloneness (Goossens & Marcoen, 1999b;
Marcoen, Goossens, & Caes, 1987; Marcoen & Goossens, 1993) or a very weak
association (Goossens & Beyers, 2002) in late childhood and adolescence. These
findings seem to further support the paradoxical nature of solitude.
Attitude toward Aloneness
With the use of various methods (i.e., the experience sampling method,
sentence completion tests, and questionnaires), the attitude toward aloneness has
been found to be predominantly negative during preadolescence, when a gradual
shift to a more positive attitude is observed until the end of adolescence. This
age trend has been found in various countries: England, Italy, Belgium, New
Zealand, and the U.S.A. (Coleman, 1974; Corsano, Majorano, & Champretavy,
2006; Goossens & Marcoen, 1999a; Kroger, 1985; Larson, 1997; Larson &
Richards, 1991; Marcoen et al., 1987; Marcoen & Goossens, 1993). More
specifically, the crucial period for the decline of aversion to aloneness was in
early adolescence (i.e., from fifth to seventh grade), and for affinity for
aloneness the increase occurred between ages 15 and 18 (Marcoen & Goossens,
1993). Advances in reasoning skills, changes in social relationships and the
process of identity formation (see below, Solitude and Adjustment) have been
regarded as the factors contributing to this attitude shift (Goossens, 2006).
However, the results for the age trends are not always so clear. For
example, while the decreasing trend was found for the negative attitude toward
aloneness, the increasing trend for the positive attitude did not emerge from
preadolescence to late adolescence (Marcoen et al., 1987). Possible reasons for
these mixed findings may be, again, the ambivalent nature of solitude, the fact
that positive and negative facets of solitude have not been differentiated in all
these investigations, as well as the fact that different methods have been used to
assess attitude toward aloneness. Longitudinal research designs, covering a
broad range of age groups, are also needed in order to clarify this age trend.
Solitude and Adjustment
If solitude – at least some uses of it – is potentially beneficial, then it should
be positively associated with indices of adjustment and mental health. First of
all, solitude seems to have a positive after-effect for adolescents. After being
alone, adolescents were more alert, felt stronger, more involved and more
cheerful (Larson & Csikszentmihalyi, 1978; Larson et al., 1982). However, this
positive after-effect was not observed among preadolescents (Larson, 1997).
Social anxiety and depression were more likely among adolescents who
exhibited an affinity for aloneness (Goossens & Marcoen, 1999a). Potential
explanations, offered by the above researchers, for these associations are that the
subscale measuring the positive attitude toward aloneness contains many items
which tap a reactive rather than an active desire to be alone; or that some
adolescents use time alone constructively while some others do not; or that the
same adolescents make a beneficial use of time alone on some occasions, but
fail to do so on other occasions.
Evidence for the association of the attitude toward aloneness with the
process of identity formation as well as with the quality of attachment to parents
among adolescents emerged from some other investigations. One could expect
that affinity for aloneness, as a more mature attitude toward being alone, would
be characteristic of achievement identity status, which reflects a strong
commitment after a period of active exploration; and that securely attached
adolescents not only are not afraid of being alone but also seek solitude for its
benefits whereas dependently attached adolescents prefer being with others than
with themselves. However, research findings are not so clear. In one such study
(Marcoen & Goossens, 1993), adolescents with a diffused identity, that is, those
who had never gone through a period of exploration and had not arrived at a
strong commitment, had negative attitude toward aloneness, and adolescents
with an achieved status were more positive toward aloneness. Those with a
moratorium status, that is, those who were going through an exploration period
84 Solitude in Children and Adolescents
without having arrived at a strong commitment, also had positive views toward
being alone, perhaps because they retreat to aloneness to explore alternatives.
Also, those with high scores on a unidimensional identity scale (with which
identity achievement and intimacy with others were measured) had more
negative attitude toward aloneness. In the same study, contrary to expectations,
there were no differences between securely and insecurely attached adolescents
as to their attitude toward aloneness, but the dependently attached adolescents
were more averse toward being alone, as expected.
These mixed findings about attitude toward aloneness, and especially the
positive attitude, may be attributed to the content of the subscale measuring this
attitude, as discussed previously. When identity exploration and commitment
were measured separately (Goossens & Marcoen, 1999a), affinity for aloneness
did not distinguish among identity statuses, but was associated, as expected,
with more exploration of identity alternatives, thus supporting the positive role
of time alone during adolescence.
In another study (Goossens, Marcoen, Van Hees, & Van De Woestijne,
1998), rather expected findings emerged. Affinity for aloneness was
characteristic of insecurely attached adolescents, that is, those with avoidant and
anxious-ambivalent attachment types; and aversion to being alone was higher
among dependently attached adolescents.
All the above findings for identity and attachment underline the necessity of
future research in which the positive and negative uses of solitude will be more
clearly distinguished and measured. In this way, their associations with various
facets of adjustment and developmental processes during adolescence will be
For young children, the ability to be alone was connected with positive
adjustment: more autonomy, and less dependency and hostility, according to
teachers’ reports (Youngblade, Berlin, & Belsky, 1999). For adolescents, an
intermediate amount of time alone (i.e., 25%-45% of their non-classroom time)
was related to less alienation (Larson & Csikszentmihalyi, 1978), better school
grades, better teacher- and parent-rated adjustment and lower self-reported
depression, controlling for loneliness when alone (Larson, 1997, 1999). This
effect was not found for preadolescents, but those preadolescents and
adolescents who stated that they wanted to be alone rather than with others and
who felt relatively happier when alone were less well adjusted (Larson, 1997).
Thus, it seems that, although solitude can have positive effects on adjustment, a
reactive desire for solitude may be indicative of or conducive to adjustment
Associations among the Aloneness Concepts
A positive attitude toward aloneness has been found to correlate positively
with loneliness, especially peer-related loneliness, during middle and late
childhood (Goossens & Beyers, 2002; Terrell-Deutsch, 1999), and adolescence
(Corsano et al., 2006, for girls only; Goossens, Lasgaard, Vanhalst, Mathias, &
Masy, 2009; Goossens & Marcoen, 1999b; Marcoen & Goossens, 1993;
Marcoen et al., 1987).
Positive links with loneliness have been found even for the negative attitude
toward aloneness during preadolescence (Goossens & Beyers, 2002) and
adolescence (Marcoen et al., 1987). Moreover, affinity for aloneness was more
pronounced among adolescents who had fewer friends, had recently quarreled
with a same-sex friend, had a father who was working outdoors, had problems at
school, and a negative outlook on the future (Marcoen et al., 1987). In the same
study, negative views on being alone were evident in adolescents who had
argued with same-sex friends, were members of a formal youth movement and
attributed their aloneness to other people. The positive attitude was also related
to unsatisfactory relations with parents in early adolescence, whereas during late
adolescence this association did not exist, but a negative attitude toward
aloneness was related to better relations with peers from early to late
adolescence (Corsano et al., 2006). In another investigation (Larson &
Csikszentmihalyi, 1980), adolescents who had the most positive moods and felt
most free alone, relative to other times, were more alienated from family and
peers. And for fifth and sixth graders spending more time alone was correlated
with heightened loneliness, although the correlation was quite modest (Larson,
Possible explanations for these rather unexpected positive associations
between loneliness and the positive attitude toward aloneness may be that
individuals find in aloneness an attractive retreat from unsatisfactory social
relationships; or use aloneness as a protection from demanding and threatening
relationships; or end up feeling lonely because they enjoy solitude, find refuge
in it and, thus, their withdrawal restricts the quantity and quality of their
relationships; or state in a questionnaire that they like to be alone as a defense
(i.e., rationalization) against their painful loneliness feelings (see also Goossens
et al., 2009; Terrell-Deutsch, 1999). This latter explanation is supported by
Larson’s (1997) notion of a “misanthropy effect,” that is, a reactive rather than
an active desire to be alone (see also Marcoen & Goossens, 1993).
Other research data indicates that attitude toward aloneness and loneliness
are separate factors during late childhood (Goossens & Beyers, 2002) and
adolescence (Goossens et al., 2009). Similarly, the correlations between
preference for privacy and privacy on the one hand and loneliness on the other,
although positive, were weak for adolescents (Marcoen & Goossens, 1993).
Finally, there is a body of research data indicating no relation between
ability to be alone/aversion to being alone and loneliness in early (Youngblade
et al., 1999) and middle childhood (Terrell-Deutsch, 1999; only for aversion).
Young children who were more averse to being alone were found to spend more
time in peer settings, thus protecting themselves from loneliness (Youngblade et
86 Solitude in Children and Adolescents
al., 1999). Also, surprisingly, no relation was found between friendship quality
and ability to be alone, a finding that may be explained by the fact that children
who are better able to be alone invest less in friendships. Also, no relation was
found for aversion to being alone, which may mean that the interaction with
friends is enough, regardless of its quality.
All the above conflicting data, together with the finding that the positive
and the negative attitude toward aloneness do not have a strong negative
association with each other (Goossens & Marcoen, 1999; Goossens & Beyers,
2002; Marcoen & Goossens, 1993; Marcoen et al., 1987), support the paradox of
solitude and may be partly attributed to it.
Conclusions and Future Directions
If solitude is a basic human need, equally important to attachment and
belonging (Buchholz, 1999; Winnicott, 1958/1965), it is necessary to explore its
multiple positive contributions to children’s development. Special attention
should be given to the multidimensionality of solitude. Future research should
focus on distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy uses of solitude. The
content of solitude, especially in childhood, constitutes a highly neglected topic.
We still have much to learn about issues such as how the benefits of solitude
fluctuate with age; which dimensions of solitude are most beneficial in each age
period; and whether, with age, individuals want to be alone for more intrinsic
reasons than before. Definitely more research is needed on the impact of culture
on children’s and adolescents’ solitude experiences, given the frequent
complaint of people about not having enough time on their own as well as the
dangers of some aloneness states. Developmental research will open the way to
a pedagogy of solitude (Galanaki, 2005), which may enable children to not only
tolerate, but enjoy aloneness as well.
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Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Evangelia P.
Galanaki, Faculty of Primary Education, University of Athens, Navarinou 13A
10680, Athens, Greece. E-mail:
... Across development, time spent in solitude follows an increasing trajectory from about 10% of waking hours in childhood to 30% in adolescence (Archbell et al., 2020;Ortiz-Ospina, 2020). Understanding experiences and implications of time alone in childhood and adolescence are important, as solitude is thought to provide a unique context for development in a variety of different domains (e.g., skill development, identity, emotion regulation; Buchholz, 1997;Galanaki, 2013;Winnicott, 1958). Global experiences of lockdowns and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic have further highlighted the importance of considering both positive and negative impacts of solitude on youth well-being and mental health (Theberath et al., 2022). ...
... Yet, early childhood is also a developmental period characterized by rapid advances in social, emotional, and cognitive skills (Black et al., 2017). Although the peer group is often cited as a critical context for acquiring and honing such skills (Rubin et al., 2009), it has also been suggested that time alone can facilitate skill acquisition in these same domains (Buccholz, 1997;Galanaki, 2013;Katz & Buchholz, 2006). Our results suggest that although mothers of young children express some substantive concerns about experiences of solitude, they also acknowledge that there are potential benefits for their child to spend time alone at this age, particularly with regard to the facilitation of developmental competencies. ...
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Experiences of solitude are ubiquitous in childhood and adolescence, but there remains considerable debate as to the potential positive versus negative implications of spending time alone across these developmental periods. The goal of this study was to examine maternal beliefs about the costs and benefits of solitude in childhood and adolescence. Participants were 500 mothers aged 23–67 years (M = 41.54, SD = 7.12) of children (n = 246 girls, n = 254 boys) aged of 4–18 years (M = 10.10, SD = 4.58). Mothers rated how ‘beneficial’ and ‘problematic’ it was, overall, for their child/adolescent to spend time alone, and then described up to three specific costs and benefits of solitude at this age. Open-ended responses were categorized into codes reflecting a wide range of costs and benefits. Among the results, mothers most often described potential costs of solitude related to the mental health concerns and problems with peers, and potential benefits of solitude pertaining to promoting autonomy and restoration. Several significant differences in maternal beliefs were also found between mothers of younger children, older children, and adolescents, as well as a function of child gender and experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Results are discussed in terms of the complex links between solitude and well-being in childhood and adolescence.
... [1] Isolation and solitude, both are objective states of being alone but with subtle differences. Solitude is the physical state of being alone, which can be experienced as either positive or negative [2] but isolation is an enforced solitude. Isolation is generally not a constructive experience T he phenomenon of being alone is complex and the very utilization of aloneness is an individual business that determines his/her unique way to deal with life events. ...
... Conversely, involuntary (i.e., non-self-determined) solitude has been associated with several negative outcomes, including loneliness, depression, anxiety, and alcohol and drug abuse. [2,5] In a recent study to focus on this pertinent issue, it has been found that college students who were intrinsically motivated to be in solitude exhibited lower stress levels, experienced more relaxation, and showed higher levels of well-being compared to college students who were alone because of extrinsic reasons (i.e., feeling forced into solitude). [6] Distinguishing between the underlying motivations for solitude is, therefore, important to research younger adults' psychosocial well-being. ...
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Background Recent reports indicate that self-isolation because of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)-related lockdowns had significant influence on mental health of medical students. Aim To understand the relationship between two different motivations for solitude – self-determined versus non-self-determined with medical students’ COVID-19-related anxiety and psychological resilience during their self-isolation because of COVID-19-related lockdowns. Materials and Methods After the approval of the Institutional Ethics Committee, this online survey was done on undergraduate Indian medical students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Expressing consent at the beginning of the online form, enabled the students to proceed to the next section comprising their sociodemographic details and clinical details. The last section of the form comprised the Motivation for Solitude Scale–Short Form, the COVID-19 Anxiety Scale, and the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale-Abbreviated. Results 282 out of 286 students of either sex gave their consent and completed the given form. Both self-determined and non-self-determined motivations for solitude were higher in female medical students. The self-determined motivation for solitude was directly related to all students’ resilience. A past history of psychiatric illness was directly associated with the non-self-determined motivation for solitude of the students. The non-self-directed motivation for solitude of female students was indirectly related to their resilience. The COVID-19-related anxiety was not related to either type of motivation for solitude as well as the resilience of the medical students. Conclusion Indian female medical students are more motivated for solitude, be it self-determined or non-self-determined, than their male counterparts. The student’s resilience has a direct relationship with students’ self-determined motivation. The COVID-19-related anxiety among the medical students is not related to their motivations for solitude or resilience.
... When they decide themselves and for themselves to isolate socially, individuals can feel pleasure in being alone. The motivation bases here can be the opportunity to resource themselves, to be creative, to experience intimacy, or to find peace (e.g., Galanaki, 2013;Ost Mor, Palgi & Segel-Karpas, 2020). ...
... Cutrona, 1982;Vanhalst, Luyckx, Scholte, Engels & Goossens, 2013). We explore this in adolescents by considering issues such as anxiety, depression, and hopelessness because most researchers point out that these feelings and states strongly affect the personal and social development of adolescents (e.g., Goossens, 2006;Goswick & Jones, 1981, 1982Heinrich & Gullone, 2006;Lasgaard, Goossens & Elklit, 2011;McMillan, Gilbody, Beresford & Neilly, 2007), their feelings of solitude, and their family and peer social connections because loneliness is related to the subjective quality of social relationships and perceived social acceptance (Asher & Paquette, 2003) and because self-esteem is likely to impact these issues that are relevant for the development of both good relationships and a positive identity (Cutrona, 1982;Galanaki, 2013;Gazelle & Druhen, 2009;Goswick & Jones, 1982;La Greca & Moore, 2005;Vanhalst, Luyckx, Scholte, Engels & Goossens, 2013). ...
Can self-esteem reduce the deleterious effects of solitude on adolescents' mental and social health? Solitude is twofold because it can be chosen (self-determined) or forced (not self-determined). When it is not a chosen behavior (e.g., social ignorance, exclusion, or fear of others' judgment), individuals experience higher levels of anxiety and depression and feel the deleterious effects of loneliness more. On the other hand, the level of self-esteem relates positively to lower levels of anxiety and depression as well as to good social relationships. We hypothesized that self-esteem moderates the effects of unchosen solitude. Eighty high school students participated in this study by filling out a self-report booklet of questionnaires. We first examine the links between unchosen solitude and anxiety, depression, loneliness, hopelessness, and quality of the connection to family and peers; next, we examine the moderating role of self-esteem in these links. Regression analyses confirm the classic negative effect of not-self-determined solitude on the health outcomes considered, and moderation analyses show that a good level of self-esteem decreases this effect, at least on depression, hopelessness, and connection to peers. We suggest further studies to complete and refine these results and propose to assess more systematically the adolescents' self-esteem and to reinforce it to prevent negative mental and social health outcomes.
... When volitionally sought, solitude appears to provide several benefits that are important for adolescents and emerging adults, including mood regulation (Larson, 1997), creativity and problem-solving (Long et al., 2003), and identity development and self-connection (Goossens, 2013;Goossens & Marcoen, 1999). Researchers have also noted the costs of solitude during this developmental period, given its associations with increases in rumination, loneliness, social anxiety, and depressive symptoms (for a review, see E. P. Galanaki, 2013); however, these costs appear to be more relevant for adolescents than for emerging adults. Likely this is due to developmental timing, with advances in cognitive and emotional complexity that appear in late adolescence better equipping them to engage in constructive emotion regulation and self-reflection during solitude (Coplan et al., 2019;Larson, 1990). ...
To clarify whether, and for whom, solitude is beneficial, this mixed-methods study examined how emerging adults perceive the space of solitude, and whether such perceptions influence utilization of solitude and correspond with psychosocial outcomes. College students (n = 43), balanced in gender and ethnically diverse, completed an online survey followed by a semi-structured interview that explored their attitudes about being alone. Qualitative analysis yielded identification of three types, those who perceived solitude as Empty, Limited, or Full of meaning and activity. Full experienced solitude as enjoyable and multi-dimensional, Empty perceived it as pointless and isolating, and Limited expressed ambivalence or exhibited a one-dimensional capacity for solitude. The Full type was significantly more likely to utilize solitude for self-actualizing purposes such as self-reflection and spiritual connection; however, in terms of adjustment, Full and Empty showed similarly high levels of well-being, though Full was more self-determined in their motivations for solitude. The Limited type showed comparatively modest decreases in well-being. Findings suggest a bifurcation of resources for well-being in emerging adulthood, with solitude serving the Full type and social relationships better serving the Empty type, albeit at the potential cost of self-actualizing experiences. Implications for the Limited type are discussed.
... Solitude: definition, features, and benefits Solitude is broadly defined as "a state of relative social disengagement, usually characterised by decreased social inhibitions and increased freedom to choose one's mental and physical activities" (Long & Averill, 2003, p. 37). Solitude is identified as positive aloneness and productively using time alone (Galanaki, 2013). The status of being alone by moving away from others physically and psychologically, either willingly or due to an undesired circumstance, is known as solitude (Knafo, 2012). ...
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Solo female travelling is a rising trend in travel and tourism across the globe. This study draws on the travel experiences of solo female travellers (SFTs) to examine how solitude as a travel need is realised during solo travels in Asia. In realising the need for solitude, intentionality in seeking solitude and the solitude setting play a vital role. This study reveals how certain service encounters and settings may influence SFTs in fulfilling their distinctive travel needs. The findings are explained by consumer territorial behaviours and contribute to the academic literature by highlighting service intrusions and also highlighting dissatisfaction as an emotional territorial response in the solo female travel context. Practical recommendations are given for destination management organisations to identify the distinctive solitude needs of SFTs and create a non-intrusive and conducive atmosphere for solitary consumption.
... Such an approach has the advantage of capturing multidimensional aspects of experience, which for solitude entails probing for the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral facets that emerge during time alone, as well as exploring the contradictions or ambivalence often experienced in the state of solitude, even when people want to be alone. This advantage is relevant for the topic at hand, given that Larson (1990) described solitude as an "experiential niche" full of both opportunities and dangers, and research has consistently indicated that solitude is a complex or paradoxical state that is not uniformly positive (see Thomas & Azmitia, 2019, among others), though it has generally been defined as constructive (Galanaki, 2013). ...
The slim but growing literature on solitude relies heavily on survey and experimental designs but lacks a substantive understanding of the lived experiences of time spent alone, and by extension, what those experiences might reveal about the psychological functions of time in solitude. Following Gibson’s (1979) theory of affordances, solitude was viewed as an environment that offers various meaningful possibilities for action. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 43 emerging adults who shared positive and negative experiences of solitude, motivations for being alone, and perceived benefits of time spent by themselves. Narratives were examined using thematic analysis, revealing five positive affordances (focused attention, restoration, reflection, freedom, transcendence), two negative affordances (loneliness, rumination), and one mixed affordance (emotional expression). Affordances as an interactive match between environment and person, and the importance of purpose and the capacity to perceive such affordances, are discussed in relation to the benefits of solitude for emerging adults.
Objective To examine the associations that narcissistic personality traits had with the preference for solitude. Background Preference for solitude may be impacted by various characteristics. Narcissism may be one such characteristic given its association with specific motivations for engagement with other individuals (e.g., status attainment). Method We examined whether the associations that narcissism had with the preference for solitude were moderated by perceived attainment of status or instability of status. Results Across three studies ( N = 627/479/675), extraverted narcissism had the expected aversion to solitude. Antagonistic narcissism and neurotic narcissism did not have consistent associations with the preference for solitude across these studies, nor did the perceived attainment of status consistently moderate the links between narcissistic personality features and the preference for solitude. However, perceived instability of status moderated the associations that extraverted narcissism and antagonistic narcissism had with the preference for solitude. More specifically, the more stable status was perceived to be, the greater the aversion to solitude for those high in extraverted narcissism and the greater the preference for solitude for those high in antagonistic narcissism. Conclusions This pattern of results suggests that the motivations underlying preferences for solitude differ depending on particular narcissistic traits that predict whether one is more concerned with maintaining, gaining, or losing status. These results build upon what is known about the connections that narcissism has with the preference for solitude.
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The phenomenon of solitude-seeking tourism has gained attention in recent years due to the growing emphasis on mental and emotional health. While solitude has garnered increasing scholarly and practical interest, there has been limited attention given to how solitude shapes the eudaimonic, hedonic, and behavioral outcomes of tourists. To address the gaps, this study proposes a novel theoretical framework based on the Stimulus–Organism–Response theory and eudaimonia–hedonia literature, which examines the relationships between solitude, intrapersonal authenticity, self-development, subjective well-being, and behavioral intention. Through the analysis of 320 valid responses using partial least squares–structural equation modeling, this study indicates that the physical & personal freedom and intellectual & spiritual elements dimensions in solitude positively contribute to intrapersonal authenticity and self-development. Intrapersonal authenticity and self-development, in turn, lead to subjective well-being, which ultimately has a positive influence on behavioral intention. The implications of these findings for academics, destination practitioners, and policymakers are discussed.
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Thinking about the universe also includes thinking about hypothetical extraterrestrial intelligence. Two key questions arise: Why are we thinking about them in the first place? And why are we anthropomorphizing them? One possible explanation may be that the belief in extraterrestrials results from a subjective feeling of loneliness or the need for closure. Results of an online questionnaire (N = 130) did not reveal a confident and consistent correlation between personal feelings of aloneness or need for closure and belief in extraterrestrial life or intelligence. The same was true for the anthropomorphic representation of extraterrestrial intelligence. The belief in extraterrestrial life was negatively linked to frequent religious activity, and to a lesser and more uncertain extent, to the belief in extraterrestrial intelligence. As evidenced by their parameter estimates, participants demonstrated an intuitive grasp of the probabilities inherent in the Drake equation. However, there was significant variability in the solutions provided. When asked to describe hypothetical extraterrestrials, participants mainly assessed them in terms connoted with physical appearance, neutral to humans, and partially influenced by anthropomorphism. Given the severe limitations, we conservatively conclude that individual loneliness is indeed individual and does not break the final frontier, that is, space.
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School-age children’s ability to distinguish among the concepts of aloneness, loneliness, and solitude was the focus of this study. This ability has been largely neglected by researchers. Also, the relation of this ability with self-reported loneliness was examined. Individual interviews were conducted with 180 second, fourth, and sixth graders from Athens, Greece. Their responses were qualitatively and quantitatively analysed. Results showed that school-age children were able to perceive the differences between aloneness and loneliness, although they frequently associated being alone with feeling lonely. Nearly half of them perceived the motivational dimension, which distinguishes voluntary from involuntary aloneness. The ability to recognise the existence of beneficial aloneness, that is, solitude, was extremely limited among second graders, but increased dramatically up to the beginning of adolescence. About two thirds of the total sample acknowledged the human desire to be alone. Girls were significantly more able than boys to perceive the differences between aloneness and loneliness, the motivational dimension, and the desire to be alone. More than two-thirds of the total sample had experienced loneliness, but this experience appeared to be unrelated to their understanding of the various aloneness concepts. Age and gender differences, as well as children’s various justifications of their responses, are discussed in the framework of the existing theoretical and research literature on children’s aloneness, loneliness, and solitude.
Seven hundred and fifty-three observations were collected on 25 adolescents at random times during an average week. The observations consisted of self-reports completed in response to an electronic pager. The study was aimed at the question: What is the experience of time alone like for adolescents? The results suggest a complex but consistent relationship: while aloneness is generally a negative experience, those adolescents who spend a moderate amount of time alone (about 30 % of their waking time) tend to show better overall adjustment than adolescents who are either never alone or spend more than the optimal proportion of time alone. Alienation and average moods showed inverse linear or quadratic relationships with amount of time alone. These results are discussed in terms of the possible psychosocial functions of aloneness at the adolescent stage of the life cycle.
This study introduces a measure of introspectiveness for adolescents aged 12-18 and investigates its association with several aspects of adolescent development. Introspectiveness-the tendency to deveote diffuse attention to thoughts and feelings about the self-increased during adolescence, and may be stimulated by discontinuities associated with adolescent development, other kinds of discontinuities, and parental introspectiveness. Also, introspectiveness was positively associated with depression, anxiety, and physical symptoms, and may help explain the increase in symptom reporting during this developmental period. Highly introspective adolescents participated in more artistic activities and spent more time alone than those low on introspectiveness. Finally, highly introspective college students chose self-oriented academic majors, which may have implications for future occupational development. Together these results suggest that the concept of introspectiveness may increase our understanding of several important aspects of this developmental period.
The purpose of our study is to explore and describe loneliness in female adolescence as distinct from solitude and isolation. In keeping with other works by Ostrov and Offer [(1978) "Loneliness and the Adolescent,Adolescent Psychiatry, Vol. 6, p. 34], our concern is to define the preeminent aspects of the unfolding and evolving cycle of loneliness, and the features they may take on in adolescents in the 1980s, within the social context of Central and Southern Italy. The Offer Self-Image Questionnaire or self-descriptive questionnaire developed by Offeret al. [(1981)The Adolescent. A Psychology Self-Portrait. Basic Books, New York] has been applied to a sample of 804 female adolescents, with ages ranging from 13 to 18 years. The data were analyzed using factor analysis. Three main components were identified: (1) the area of the coping self and the psychopathological self; (2) an emotional layout characterized by a poor self-acceptance and a reduced self-confidence; (3) interpersonal relationships focusing on peer relations. Furthermore, the variance analysis shows that loneliness increases with age, and is more evident in small towns as opposed to medium-sized or larger metropolitan areas.
Although loneliness is a normative experience, there is reason to be concerned about children who are chronically lonely in school. Research indicates that children have a fundamental understanding of what it means to be lonely, and that loneliness can be reliably measured in children. Most of the research on loneliness in children has focused on the contributions of children's peer relations to their feelings of well-being at school. Loneliness in children is influenced by how well accepted they are by peers, whether they are overtly victimized, whether they have friends, and the durability and quality of their best friendships. Findings from this emerging area of research provide a differentiated picture of how children's peer experiences come to influence their emotional well-being.
A disparity is often observed between the data of immediate experience and the data of recollection. Although this is frequently seen to reflect possible distortion in the latter process, it may also reflect important developmental gains in the interpretations of experience. In the present study, 27 middle-class 15–18 yr olds provided randomly signaled reports on their affective states for 2 1-wk intervals, situated 2 yrs apart. Following the 2nd data collection, they also were asked to rate changes in their affective states over this time period and to explain why these changes had occurred. Findings show little change in the quality of immediate experience over the 2 yrs, yet upon recollection, substantial positive changes were perceived to have occurred. Analyses revealed that this perception of change took the form of a felt increase in Ss' capacity for interpreting and organizing experience within various domains of their daily lives. (18 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)