What Is Developmental Loneliness And Why Does It Occur?
People grow and mature at different rates, which is a normal part of the human development process.
When a person feels that they are behind (or well beyond) everyone else in their social or peer group, it can be difficult to make or maintain social and/or intimate connections with others.
Developmental loneliness typically manifests during childhood, teenage years, and into young adulthood.
The way that young people regard the overall quality of their social relationships with others can affect their feelings of loneliness and their mental health, particularly when they don’t feel as though they’re measuring up to their peers in certain areas.
Developmental loneliness may be brought on when there are significant differences between peers in regard to academic ambition or a desire to take part in school-related activities. This may mean that children and adolescents with both low levels and high levels of intellectual or emotional intelligence might be at a greater risk of experiencing developmental loneliness.
It may also occur as the result of differences in cultural or socioeconomic statuses between peers, such as living in poverty when one’s peers are members of the middle or upper class.
In addition, developmental loneliness takes place when there are significant variances in the rates of cognitive or physical development and maturation between those in the same age group or setting.
Those who struggle with cognitive disabilities, physical disabilities, or deficits related to their physical development may experience developmental loneliness because they are behind their peers in their personal development or ability.
Additionally, those who identify as gay, or as part of the LGBTQ+ community in general, may also experience developmental loneliness if they are isolated by their peers.
Those who experience loneliness as children tend to carry the same disposition toward loneliness as they reach other stages of life.
In young adulthood, for instance, a person may continue to struggle with developmental loneliness as their friends begin to get married and have children if they are not also achieving such milestones themselves.
For this reason, feelings of inadequacy are associated with developmental loneliness because a person may feel “less than” when comparing themselves to their peers as they grow together — and apart.
If you are struggling with loneliness right now, there are resources to find help.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of our ongoing series The Roots Of Loneliness Project, the first-of-its-kind resource that comprehensively explores the phenomenon of loneliness and over 100 types that we might experience over the course of our lives.