The Experience and Expression of Homesickness in Preadolescent and Adolescent Boys


  • This research was supported in part by grants from Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society, and the Colin Brown Fund. Foremost, I wish to thank Marian D. Sigman and John R. Weisz for their enthusiasm, scholarly tutelage, and financial sponsorship. I also thank Joan Asarnow, Leila Beckwith, Meredith Bombar, Andrew Christensen, Louise Davis, Christophe Heinecke, and A. Hawley Parmelee for their comments on the design of this study; Tom Bradbury and Jim Sidanius for statistical consultations; John Borozan for design consultations; Caryn and Gene Clark and Tom Giggi for providing demographic data and continued support. Warmest thanks are also extended to the parents of all the campers, to my students in Psychology 194, and to my tireless research assistants, the cabin leaders. I thank three anonymous reviewers for their critiques of earlier drafts of this paper. Most of all, I thank the campers themselves, for their inspiration, time, and honesty.

Address all correspondence to Christopher A. Thurber, Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, 405 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles, CA, 90095-1563.


This study is the first prospective longitudinal and clinical investigation of homesickness in children. The moods of 329 boys ages 8–16 were assessed on a daily basis during either a 2- or 4-week period of separation from primary caregivers. Results supported 4 hypotheses: (1) homesickness was prevalent and varied in intensity. 83% of the boys reported some homesickness on at least 1 day during their stay, and 5.8% experienced severe depression and anxiety; (2) homesickness was experienced as a combination of depression and anxiety, particularly the former; (3) younger boys were at greater risk for homesickness than older boys; and (4) homesickness presented most often as internalizing behavior and was sometimes detectable to observers who knew the boys. 63% of the boys who self-reported moderate or high levels of homesickness were judged by observers to be homesick. Inconsistent with popular notions, the most homesick boys became progressively more homesick over the course of their separation, experiencing a significant drop in homesickness just before reuniting with parents. The phenomenology of homesickness is discussed, as are issues of simultaneous depression and anxiety in children.