The Social Construction of Loneliness: An Integrative Conceptualization

Jacob Y. Stein, Rivka Tuval-Mashiach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Loneliness may be seen as the epitome of relational deficit, and as an experience that may hold dire ramifications for health and well-being. Hence, it has become a phenomenon of growing interest in psychology, nursing, and health care. Although loneliness literature in numerous disciplines is replete with attempts to define and conceptualize the experience, a close examination of existing conceptualizations suggests they are lacking. Moreover, although researchers demonstrate how various theoretical approaches relate to loneliness, they have yet to examine how the various approaches relate to each other. We (a) address those shortcomings and suggest that they may be attributed to adherence to a positivistic view of the experience, (b) demonstrate manners in which previous conceptualizations and their construal mechanisms may be traced to their disciplinary traditions, and (c) argue for an interpretative social-constructionistic point of view by breaking down the experience of loneliness into its fundamental components. The result is an experiential model depicting seven components essential to the experience of loneliness as it is constructed within a Western interdisciplinary academic milieu: (a) a sense of isolation, (b) a relationship, (c) an experiencing self, (d) a representation of an Other, (e) a deficiency of relational need(s), (f) a sense of discrepancy, and (g) psychological pain or aversion. Interrelations among the elements, the model's use for qualitative investigations and clinical practice, and its implications for future research investigating loneliness are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-227
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Constructivist Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 3 Jul 2015

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