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Loneliness in the daily lives of university students : an experience sampling study exploring the role of social context and trait measures of loneliness and self-compassion

Gütges, I.D. (2020) Loneliness in the daily lives of university students : an experience sampling study exploring the role of social context and trait measures of loneliness and self-compassion.

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Abstract:Background: Loneliness is typically investigated as a stable trait-like concept within cross-sectional studies using retrospective questionnaires. Recently, the experience sampling method has attracted attention for measuring affect as a momentary state to provide insights into the dynamics of emotional experience over time. The purpose of this study was to explore the in the moment experiences of state loneliness in the daily life of university students. Specifically, daily state levels of loneliness were explored in the light of different social contexts, as well as in relation to trait measures of loneliness and self-compassion. Methods: In a sample of 35 university students, state loneliness and the social context were assessed three times a day over the course of one week via the smartphone application TiiM. On the last day, the retrospective UCLA Loneliness and Self-Compassion Short Form scales were administered. Linear Mixed Modeling was implemented to estimate marginal means of state loneliness per person over all measurement points as well as the mean levels of state loneliness for the whole group per measurement point. Furthermore, means of state loneliness for each social context (alone, non-intimate company, intimate company) were computed and compared. Carry-over effects of the social context on state loneliness at the next measurement were examined by means of lagged Linear Mixed Modeling. Finally, Pearson correlations were conducted between the marginal means per person over all measurement points and either trait loneliness or trait self-compassion to explore the association between state loneliness and trait loneliness and self-compassion. Results: Levels of state loneliness varied between and within persons. Students were most lonely without company, followed by non-intimate company and least lonely when they were in intimate company. The current social context appeared to mostly determine the level of loneliness in the moment with the exception of a carry-over effect of increased loneliness when students were alone after being in non-intimate company. Lastly, students that scored higher on trait loneliness also showed to have higher scores on state loneliness (r = .66, p < .01) and higher levels of trait self-compassion were associated with lower levels of state loneliness in university students (r = -.51, p < .01). Conclusions: This study extends the previous knowledge of loneliness by stressing loneliness to be a dynamic experience that is mostly dependent on the concurrent social context. Students scoring high on trait loneliness experience higher levels of state loneliness over the week while trait self-compassion reveals to be a protective factor for state loneliness. This study provides a theoretical base for future studies to build comprehensive theory integrating state loneliness in connection to context and trait variables to conduct research that could eventually help students cope with experiences of loneliness.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:77 psychology
Programme:Psychology MSc (66604)
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