What Is Developmental Loneliness And Why Does It Occur?
Developmental loneliness is a type of loneliness that can emerge when a person doesn’t feel as though they’re developing at the same rate as their peers.
Surreal Illustration Of A Young Boy Wearing A Backpack And Holding An Open Book With Symbols Of Concepts Like Algebra Geography And Sports Flying Out Of The Book
Q: What Is Developmental Loneliness And Why Does It Occur?

A: Developmental loneliness is a type of loneliness that can emerge when a person doesn’t feel as though they’re developing at the same rate as their peers.

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.

It may also occur as the result of a difference in 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.

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, in addition to being able to connect meaningfully with others in similar situations on our forums.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of our ongoing series The Roots Of Loneliness Project: Unearthing Why We Feel Alone, the first-of-its-kind directory that comprehensively explores the phenomenon of loneliness and 80+ types that we might experience over the course of our lives.

Click the link to find resources and information on virtually any form of loneliness you may be personally experiencing.


Are you struggling with developmental loneliness or do you know someone who is? Have you found ways of dealing with developmental loneliness that may benefit others who are struggling with it?

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