UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Effects of Social Isolation and Loneliness in Children with Neurodevelopmental Disabilities : A Scoping Review Kwan, Celia; Gitimoghaddam, Mojgan; Collet, Jean-Paul


Loneliness and social isolation have negative consequences on physical and mental health in both adult and pediatric populations. Children with neurodevelopmental disabilities (NDD) are often excluded and experience more loneliness than their typically developing peers. This scoping review aims to identify the type of studies conducted in children with NDD to determine the effects of loneliness and/or social isolation. Three electronic databases (Ovid MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsychINFO) were searched from inception until 5 February 2019. Two independent reviewers screened the citations for inclusion and extracted data from the included articles. Quantitative (i.e., frequency analysis) and qualitative analyses (i.e., content analysis) were completed. From our search, 5768 citations were screened, 29 were read in full, and 12 were included. Ten were case-control comparisons with cross-sectional assessment of various outcomes, which limited inference. Autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and learning disorder were the most commonly studied NDD. This review showed that loneliness among children with NDD was associated with negative consequences on mental health, behaviour, and psychosocial/emotional development, with a likely long-term impact in adulthood. Lack of research in this area suggests that loneliness is not yet considered a problem in children with NDD. More studies are warranted using prospective designs and a larger sample size with a focus on the dynamic aspect of loneliness development.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


CC BY 4.0