An examination of the relation of individual difference variables to loneliness


Requests for reprints should be addressed to Joseph Stokes, Psychology Department, PO Box 4348, Chicago, IL 60680


This study investigated the relation of five individual difference variables (extroversion, depression, self-esteem, neuroticism, and attitude toward others) to loneliness The relative contributions of two different models that might explain these relations were examined One model suggests that individual difference variables are related to loneliness through the mediation of social network variables, that IS, individual difference variables may reduce people's motivation and/or ability to build and maintain social relationships, which in turn leads to loneliness The second model, the cognitive bias model, states that both the individual difference variables and loneliness are influenced by the same intrapersonal, cognitive processes Some people are prone to negative affect and tend to evaluate themselves and their relationships negatively The relations of self-esteem, neuroticism, and depression to loneliness were hypothesized to reflect the cognitive bias model, while extroversion and attitudes toward others were hypothesized to be related to loneliness through the mediation of social network variables Eighty-two female and 42 male adults completed measures of loneliness and the five individual difference variables, as well as an instrument assessing their social networks The results indicated partial support for both models for each of the individual difference variables Together, the two models did a good job of explaining the correlations of the individual difference variables and loneliness The implications of these findings, as well as their relation to previous research, are discussed