Course Syllabus

Psychology of Loneliness

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Semester & Location:

Spring 2020 - DIS Stockholm

Type & Credits:

Elective Course - 3 credits

Major Disciplines:

Psychology, Human Development, Sociology.

Faculty Members:

Barbara Gamper

Program Director:

Lars Rossen -

Time & Place:

Mondays 8.30 - 11.25

Classroom 1D509


Description of Course

What is loneliness and what causes it? Is it the nature of our human condition? Is it a feeling or a thought? Does age, personality or status matter? Topics to be considered: The causes and consequences of loneliness from a psychological perspective and the impact of modern society; sources of resilience and vulnerabilities; implications of loneliness vs. aloneness/solitude; interventions for alleviating loneliness. What part does loneliness play in the normal development of people during a life span? Some special challenges and pathology involving loneliness will be explored as well as cultural implications and the Scandinavian perspective.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this course..

  • To critically explore the construct of loneliness and contributing variables based on psychological theory and research.
  • To look at loneliness and its relationship to psychological health, through a life span
  • To investigate special challenges/pathology involving loneliness
  • To integrate and understand cultural factors with the occurrence and amelioration of loneliness.
  • To compare psychological interventions for the assessment, prevention and treatment of loneliness.


Barbara Gamper

Licensed Psychologist, M.Sc. in Psychology, (University of Stockholm, 1988 - 1993). Specialist training in Organizational Psychology and Identity-Oriented Psychotrauma therapy. The first part of her career has been in clinical work, mainly in the public sector. Among other things, she has worked with adolescents with psychiatric diagnoses in residential care and multi-problematic families. The last ten years she has worked as an organizational consultant, first in an international consultancy company, where she became Head of Consultants and member of the executive management team. In addition she has worked with personality assessments and management team development internationally, in the Nordics, Russia, Ukraine and the US. Since 2011 she has been self-employed as a clinical and organizational consultant. With DIS since 2016.



Cacioppo, John T.; Patrick, William. (2008) Loneliness—Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection. New York:  W. W. Norton & Company.


On Canvas:

Compitus, K. (2019). Traumatic pet loss and the integration of attachment-based animal assisted therapy. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 29(2), 119-131. doi:

Dublin, S., Abramovitz, R., Layne, C. M., & Katz, L. (2019). Building a trauma-informed national mental health workforce: Learning outcomes from use of the core curriculum on childhood trauma in multidisciplinary practice settings.Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, doi:

Flett, G., L., Goldstein, A., L., Petchenkov, I., C., Nepon, T., & Wekerle, C. ( 2015). Antecedents, Correlates and Consequences of feeling like you don’t matter: Associations with Maltreatment, Loneliness, Social Anxiety and the five factor Model. Personality and individual differences, 92,  52–56.

Foster, C. E., Horwitz, A., Thomas, A., Opperman, K., Gipson, P., Burnside, A., King, C. A. (2017). Connectedness to family, school, peers, and community in socially vulnerable adolescents. Children and Youth Services Review, 81, 321-331. doi:

Harrell, S., P. (2000). A multidimensional conceptualization of racism-related stress: Implications for the well-being of people with color. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 70 (1), 42-57.

Hazan, C.C., & Shaver, P.D. (1987). Romantic love conceptualized as an attachment process. Journal of personality and social psychology, 52 3, 511-24 . 

Hou, Y., Xiong, D., Jiang, T., Song, L., & Wang, Q. (2019). Social media addiction: Its impact, mediation, and intervention. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 13(1), article 4. 

Jackson, N. A. (2015). Music Therapy and Chronic Mental Illness: Overcoming the Silent Symptoms. Music Therapy Perspectives,33(2), 90-96.

Knafo, D. (2019). Alone in a crowded mind: When psychosis masks loneliness.Psychoanalytic Psychology, doi:

Kolk, B. (2016). Commentary: The devastating effects of ignoring child maltreatment in psychiatry - a commentary on Teicher and Samson 2016. JOURNAL OF CHILD PSYCHOLOGY AND PSYCHIATRY AND ALLIED DISCIPLINES, (3), 267. Retrieved from

Luthar, S. S., Kumar, N. L., & Zillmer, N. (2019). High-achieving schools connote risks for adolescents: Problems documented, processes implicated, and directions for interventions. American Psychologist, doi:

Lykes, V., A., Kemmelmeier, M. (2014). What Predicts Loneliness? Cultural Difference between individualistic and collectivistic Societies in Europe. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 45, 468-490.

Mancini, A. D. (2019). When acute adversity improves psychological health: A social–contextual framework. Psychological Review, 126(4), 486-505. doi:

McWilliams, N. (2017). Integrative research for integrative practice: A plea for respectful collaboration across clinician and researcher roles. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 27(3), 283-295. doi:

Pearl, A. & Dykstra, P., A. (2009). Older Adult Loneliness: Myths and Realities. Eur J Ageing6(2), 91–100.

Peng, J., Chen, Y., Xia, Y., & Ran, Y. (2017). Workplace loneliness, leader-member exchange and creativity: The cross-level moderating role of leader compassion.Personality and Individual Differences, 104, 510-515. doi:

Pollack, W. S. (2006). The "war" for boys: Hearing "real boys'" voices, healing their pain. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 37(2), 190-195. doi:

Ramaeker, J., & Petrie, T. A. (2019). “Man up!”: Exploring intersections of sport participation, masculinity, psychological distress, and help-seeking attitudes and intentions. Psychology of Men & Masculinities, 20(4), 515-527. doi:

Sbarra, D., A., Smith, H., L., Mehl, M., R. (2012). When Leaving Your Ex, Love Yourself: Observational Ratings of Self-Compassion Predict the Course of Emotional Recovery Following Marital Separation. Psychological Science, 23(3). 261-269.

Segel-Karpas, D., & Ayalon, L. (2019). Loneliness and hostility in older adults: A cross-lagged model. Psychology and Aging, doi:

Stronge, S., Overall, N. C., & Sibley, C. G. (2019). Gender differences in the associations between relationship status, social support, and wellbeing. Journal of Family Psychology, 33(7), 819-829. doi:

Thelamour, B., George Mwangi, C., & Ezeofor, I. (2019). “We need to stick together for survival”: Black college students’ racial identity, same-ethnic friendships, and campus connectedness. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, doi:

Wilson R.S., Krueger K.R., Arnold S.E., Schneider J.A., Kelly J.F., Barnes L.L.,. (2007).
Loneliness and risk of Alzheimer's disease. Archives of General Psychiatry, 64,


Field Studies

Wednesday, Feb, 12th from 14:00 -16:30:

Mindfulness – a way to connect with yourself: Our mindfulness instructor Heidi Andersen, BFA, MBSR Instructor, Art therapist, Mindfulness Coach, will guide us through different mindfulness exercises and talk about how mindfulness can help with feelings of loneliness.


Wednesday, Apr,22nd from 09:00-12:00: 

Visit to the transcultural centre.


Health care services in the county of Stockholm face demands from a multicultural population. Transcultural aspects are important in order to enable all patients, regardless of cultural background, to be treated with respect for their autonomy, integrity and dignity.

The Transcultural Centre has a commitment to provide support to health and dental care personnel in issues of culture, migration and refugee status. The Transcultural Centre also provides health communication for newly ar- rived refugees and immigrants.


  • Supervision and consultation within the fields of psychiatric, health and dental care for asylum seekers and refugees

  • Information

  • Training

  • Networking

  • Development of methods in clinical work

  • Health Communication in mother tongue in local municipalities


The Transcultural Centre provides advice, consultations and super-vision regarding:

  • health and culture

  • reception and understanding

  • assessment and treatment

    These services are free of charge via telephone, visits to the Centre or at the place of work in question (clinic, ward etc).


Guest Lecturers

Catalyst Mcllroy, MSc in Equality Studies (University College Dublin, 2008):

"The LGBTQ Well of Loneliness"


Approach to Teaching

A variety of teaching methods will be used, including lectures, class discussions, group presentations, interactive classroom activities and multi-media to facilitate the understanding of theory, research and their cultural implications. Psychological applications will be explored using case examples

Expectations of the Students

In this course each and every one of us has the equal and unique responsibility to facilitate the most optimal learning outcomes. Students are expected to:

  • Complete all reading assignments prior to coming to class.
  • Make reference to the readings to support the points you are making when responding to questions in class.
  • Contribute to class discussions and group activities.
  • Draw upon your interactions and observations in Sweden to compliment theory, research and practice.
  • Work independently and be active in group work.
  • Be punctual and attend all classes and field studies.


The classes will contain both lectures and pair/group discussions. Students will be evaluated based on active participation, engagement, critical thinking and knowledge. For students that are less comfortable speaking up in class, there will be other possibilities to engage in discussions, e.g. through writing in Canvas. 

The assignments have been chosen to give students with different qualities the possibility to shine. Some require more traditional academic discipline, others have a freer form and allow a more creative, even artistic, expression. Some demand a specific response, others a broader analysis. Regardless of the assignment you are always expected to exhibit adacemic rigour - pure speculation or personal opinions without scientific support will not be rewarded. 

Most of the assignments have a rubric and I always strive to be transparent when it comes to evaluation and grading.


To be eligible for a passing grade in this class you must complete all of the assigned work.




Active Participation and Engagement


Group Presentation


Research Paper


Take-home final Exam




Active Participation = 25 %

Active participation and engagement in classes, field studies and guest lectures are important because they show that you are taking responsibility for your own learning. It also demonstrates that you are keeping up with the readings and understanding the theoretical perspectives discussed in class. It is imperative that you show development in your knowledge and grasp of psychological theory and research relating to Loneliness as well as improvement in your reflection and analytical skills during the course.

Active participation and engagement includes asking questions related to readings and material presented in the class and taking part in discussions and case analysis. Each student is expected to present one reading, either from class readings or other material at least once during the semester. Each student is also expected to write an analysis of one of the readings once a week. Attendance is mandatory and every missed class results in a 5% deduction in your participation grade.

Excused absence includes serious illness and participation in religious holidays. All other absences are unexcused. If you must miss a class please contact me as soon as possible.  After 2 unexplained absences, the Office of Academic Support will be notified.


Group Presentations = 20 %

Due Date: Feb 14th and Feb 17th, regular class time

Students will work in their assigned teams of 4-5 students to examine what can be learned about the understanding of the psychological stages of loneliness in film/TV and art. Each group will be expected to give a 20-minute presentation including class discussion which will be led by the group participants. The assignment will be evaluated on the: 

  • Appropriateness of the selected film/TV excerpt and piece of art work
  • Understanding of the theory and research on loneliness demonstrated in their discussion of the film clip/TV and art work
  • All group members playing a significant role in the presentation.
  • Engagement of the class in the discussion of the example of loneliness as seen in the film/TV and piece of art work.
  • Completed abstract with reference list of relevant literature, provided Friday, Sep 2 Each group is to decide on one key reading, which faculty will upload on Canvas, for the rest of the class to read beforehand. The readings should be from academic sources/peer reviewed journals, no longer than maximum 10 pages/group.
  • Further guidelines and rubrics for grading will be posted on Canvas.

Research paper = 30 %

Due Date: Wed, Apr 8th, 23:59

The objectives of this assignment are to:

  • Understand one topic of loneliness as a part of normal development during a life span more thoroughly than class time permits;
  • Examine how this specific topic can be viewed from at least two different scholarly perspectives;
  • Explore possible treatments/interventions of this specific topic of loneliness;
  • Evaluate the various perspectives on this specific topic and to formulate your own position on it.

To do this well, each student will be expected to:

  • Review the research and identify key research areas to be investigated;
  • Develop salient questions to research on this specific topic of loneliness based on the student’s understanding of it from the course readings;
  • Research at least four scholarly sources, two for each perspective, on this specific topic of loneliness;
  • Identify any specific interventions/treatments of this specific topic of loneliness;
  • Formulate your own analytical position on this specific topic of loneliness based on your research;
  • Write the complete analysis of this specific topic of adult development in a formal paper.

The paper is to be 6 pages +/- half a page (1 page = 300 words). The topic of the paper is free but must be approved by the instructor. It must focus on loneliness as a part of normal development during a life span and include cross cultural comparisons and analyses.

You will be required to use APA reference style and find five readings (research articles and maximum two book chapters – no introductory textbooks). All independent sources should be from academic sources/ peer reviewed journals. Please refer to the DIS Academic Handbook for general guidelines for writing papers.


Further guidelines will be posted on Canvas.

Take home final exam  = 25 %

Due Date: Wed, May 6th, 23:59

This exam will consist of be a mixture of short answer questions and 1 essay question. You will be given the questions in advance and answer them at home, having access to all literature. The exam will therefore not be a memory test but an opportunity to show a higher level of analysis, integrating literature, discussions, cases, own experiences and practice.

The exam will cover the course as a whole, both loneliness as a part of the normal development and special challenges and pathology involving loneliness. The questions will be available on Canvas from November 18th, in this way giving you plenty of time to finish the exam in time.


Further instructions will be given in class and on Canvas. The exam will be graded based on rubrics posted on Canvas.


Academic Regulations  

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on:



DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia -

Recommended Additional  Areas to Cover

Policy on late papers:

Late essays will be accepted for up to 3 days after the deadline, but the grade for the paper will be reduced by half a grade for each day that it is late, if you haven't applied for an extension before the deadline. If you have special reasons for further delay, let me know and I will make individual decisions.


Policy for students who arrive late to class:

Please come to classes on time, not to disturb the lecturer and other students. Repeated lateness will result in a referral to the head of the Office of Academic Support and have a negative impact on your active participation grade.


Use of laptops or phones in class: 

Laptops and Ipads are not allowed in class, since misuse has been observed. Cell phones are not permitted outside your backpack/pocket/purse while in the classroom. Please turn off your cell phone and put it away before coming to class. If you are expecting an emergency call or text during class let me know so we can discuss an exception to this policy for that class.

Course Summary:

Date Details