Vulnerability to loneliness in people with intellectual disability: an explanatory model

Gilmore, Linda & Cuskelly, Monica (2014) Vulnerability to loneliness in people with intellectual disability: an explanatory model. Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, 11(3), pp. 192-199.

[img] Accepted Version (PDF 106kB)
Administrators only | Request a copy from author
Published Version (PDF 220kB)

View at publisher


Research with typically developing groups has identified loneliness as a significant predictor of a range of physical and mental health problems. This paper reviews research about loneliness in children and adults with intellectual disability. Although a considerable body of evidence has highlighted the difficulties individuals with intellectual disability have with friendships, there is a relative scarcity of research focused explicitly on loneliness. The available evidence suggests that up to half of those with intellectual disability are chronically lonely, compared with around 15-30% of people in the general population. The cognitive, physical and mental health problems already associated with intellectual disability are likely to be compounded by experiences of chronic loneliness. We argue that people with intellectual disability are highly vulnerable to loneliness and present a theoretical model of vulnerability that comprises three reciprocally influencing domains: social attitudes and expectations; opportunities and experiences; and skill deficits associated with intellectual disability. We propose that societal views which have traditionally devalued and stigmatised those with intellectual disability limit their opportunities for experiencing social and emotional connectedness with others. Individual skill deficits in areas such as communication, self-regulation and social understanding, as well as functional difficulties associated with intellectual disability, also potentially influence the opportunities and experiences of people with intellectual disability, both directly and via multiple layers of the social context. In turn, limited opportunities will entrench particular skill deficits and reinforce negative attitudes towards intellectual disability. Future research about loneliness and intellectual disability needs to address the difficulties of measuring emotional isolation in this population, as well as the possibility that people with intellectual disability may understand, experience and interpret loneliness somewhat differently from others. The model proposed in this paper provides a starting point for developing a more sophisticated understanding of the experience of loneliness for individuals with intellectual disability.

Impact and interest:

1 citations in Scopus
Search Google Scholar™
1 citations in Web of Science®

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

Full-text downloads:

152 since deposited on 13 Aug 2014
48 in the past twelve months

Full-text downloads displays the total number of times this work’s files (e.g., a PDF) have been downloaded from QUT ePrints as well as the number of downloads in the previous 365 days. The count includes downloads for all files if a work has more than one.

ID Code: 73201
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Loneliness, intellectual disabilities, social isolation, emotional isolation, friendship
DOI: 10.1111/jppi.12089
ISSN: 1741-1122
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > SPECIALIST STUDIES IN EDUCATION (130300) > Special Education and Disability (130312)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Cultural & Professional Learning
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2014 International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual Disabilities and Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Copyright Statement: This is the accepted version of the following article: [full citation], which has been published in final form at [Link to final article].
Deposited On: 13 Aug 2014 23:26
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2014 06:45

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page