Course Syllabus

Psychology of Loneliness

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Semester & Location:

Fall 2022 - DIS Stockholm

Type & Credits:

Elective Course - 3 credits

Major Disciplines: Psychology, Human Development, Sociology


Faculty Members:

Amanda Killian (current students please use the Canvas Inbox)

Program Director:

Suman Abwani

Academic Support 

Time & Place:

Mondays  10:05-13:00 Room D-409


Course Description

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.


Amanda Killian, M.A.

M.A. in Psychology from (California State University Fullerton, 2013). IMQRES research fellow in Cognitive Psychology (Macquarie University, 2016-2019). Taught in the United States, Australia, and has developed graduate psychology programs in Germany. In addition to her teaching experience she works as freelance behavioral science consultant and at DIS Stockholm in Student Life. With DIS since 2021.


Mandatory Textbook:

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

Mandatory Readings On Canvas:

Badcock, J., C., Shah, S., Mackinnon, A., Stain, H., J., Galletly, C., Jablensky, A., Morgan, V., A. (2015).  Loneliness in psychotic disorders and its association with cognitive function and symptom profile. Schizophrenia Research, 169(1-3), 268-273.

Blossom, P., Apsche, J. (2013). Effects of Loneliness on Human Development. International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy, 7(4), 28-29.

Creswell, J.D. (2012). Mindfulness-based stress reduction training reduces loneliness ad pro-inflammatory gene expression in older adults: a small randomized controlled trial. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 26, 1095-1101.

Dahlberg, L., McKee, K. J., Lennartsson, C., & Rehnberg, J. (2022). A social exclusion perspective on loneliness in older adults in the Nordic countries. European Journal of Ageing, 19, 175-188.

Eisma, M., C., Schut, H., A. W., Stroebe, M., Boelen, P., A., van den Bout, J., Stroebe, W. (2015). Adaptive and maladaptive rumination after loss: A three-wave longitudinal study. British Journal of Clinical Psychology54(2), 163 – 180.

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:

Kelly, K., R. (2015). Insecure attachment representations and child personal narrative structure: implications for delayed discourse in preschool-age children. Attachment & Human Development, 17(5), 448-471.

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.

Matthews, T., Danese, A., Wertz, J., Odgers, C.L., Ambler, A., Moffitt, T. E., Arseneault, L. (2016). Social isolation, loneliness and depression in young adulthood: a behavioural genetic analysis. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol, 51, 399-348. DOI 10.1007/s00127-016-1178-7.

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:

Pittman, M. & Reich, B. (2016). Social media and loneliness: Why an Instagram picture may be worth more than a thousand Twitter words. Computers in Human Behavior. 62, 155-167.

Priest, N., Perry, R., Ferdinand, A., Kelaher, M., Paradies, Y. (2017). Effects over time on self-reported direct vicarious racial discrimination on depressive symptoms and loneliness among Australian school students. BMC Psychiatry, (17) 50. 

Rokach, A. (2001). Strategies of coping with Loneliness throughout the Lifespan. Current Psychology: A Journal for Diverse Perspectives on Diverse Psychological Issues20(1), 3-18.

Russell, D., W., Cutrona, C., Mcrae, C. & Gomez, M. (2012). Is loneliness the same as being alone. The Journal of Psychology, 146(1-2), 7-22.

Schliehe, A., Laursen, J. Crewe, B. (2021).  Loneliness in prison. European Journal of Criminology.

Spielmann, S. S., MacDonald, G., Joel, S., & Impett, E. A. (2016). Longing for Ex-Partners out of Fear of Being Single. Journal Of Personality84(6), 799-808. doi:10.1111/jopy.12222

Tiilikainen, E., & Seppänen, M. (2016). Lost and unfulfilled relationships behind emotional loneliness in old age. Ageing and Society, 1-21.

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,

Wilson, L. and Liss, M. (2022). Belonging and loneliness as mechanisims in the psychological impact of discrimination among transgender college students. Journal of LGBT Youth. DOI:1080/19361653.2022.2049418.

Optional Readings On Canvas:

Black, R. S., & Kammes, R. R. (2019). Restrictions, power, companionship, and intimacy: A metasynthesis of people with intellectual disability speaking about sex and relationships. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 57(3), 212-233,260,262. doi:

Connolly, A. (2011). Healing the wounds of our fathers: intergenerational trauma, memory, symbolization and narrative. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 56(5), 607–626.

Daubney, M., Bateman, A. (2015).  Mentalization-based therapy (MBT): an overview. Australasian Psychiatry, 23(2), 132-135.

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.

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. 

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

Jobes, D., Au, J., Siegelman, A. (2015). Psychological Approaches to Suicide Treatment and Prevention. Current Treatment Options in Psychiatry, 2(4), 363 – 370.

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

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:

Martiny, S. E., & Nikitin, J. (2019). Social identity threat in interpersonal relationships: Activating negative stereotypes decreases social approach motivation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 25(1), 117-128. 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:

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.

Spielmann, S. S., MacDonald, G., Joel, S., & Impett, E. A. (2016). Longing for Ex-Partners out of Fear of Being Single. Journal Of Personality84(6), 799-808. doi:10.1111/jopy.12222

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:

Weissman, D., Bitran, D., Miller, A., Schaefer, J., Sheridan, M., & McLaughlin, K. (2019). Difficulties with emotion regulation as a transdiagnostic mechanism linking child maltreatment with the emergence of psychopathology. Development and Psychopathology, 31(3), 899-915. doi:10.1017/S0954579419000348.


Field Studies

Two field studies will take place this semester and will be announced at a later time. Sites include real word application of theory within a Nordic framework. 

Guest Lecturers

Catalyst Mcllroy, MSc in Equality Studies (University College Dublin, 2008) will lecture on "The LGBTQ Well of Loneliness".

Dana Delger, J.D. (Columbia Law School) with extensive experience working in the U.S. criminal justice system as Strategic Litigator for the Innocence Project.  

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.
  • Respect confidentiality of shared experiences in the course.


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 academic rigors - 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 



Two Group Projects



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 chapter readings once a week. Attendance is mandatory.

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 Projects = 20 %

There are two group projects.

For the first project, students will work in 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-minutes 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. 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.

For the second project, students will work in teams of 4-5 students to create an applicable loneliness survival kit for students studying abroad. Each group will be expected to give a 15-20 minutes presentation explaining their chosen survival kit program, diary entries, and scientific evidence supporting program item selection. The assignment will be evaluated on the:

  • Appropriateness of the selected items for created program
  • Understanding of the theory and research on loneliness demonstrated in their selected items
  • All group members playing a significant role in the presentation.
  • Completed abstract with reference list of relevant literature, provided
  • Further guidelines and rubrics for grading will be posted on Canvas.


Research paper = 30 %

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 a maximum of 7 pages +/- half a page not including cover page and reference pages. The topic of the paper is free but must be approved by the instructor. It must focus on loneliness as a part of 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 %

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 close to the due date, 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.

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 allowed in class for note taking purposes. Other uses such as social media, emails or internet surfing are only permitted during breaks. Misuse will have a negative impact on your participation grade. Cell phone usage is not permitted in the classroom. In the case of an emergency, please quietly excuse yourself from lecture and take the call outside of the classroom.

Policy for Missed Lectures

Students are responsible for all in class material and expected to ask other students for missed materials if not available on Canvas. Individual “make-up” lectures will not be provided.

Policy for Confidentiality 

Students are encouraged to share their experiences related to the course topic. It is expected that all participants respect the privacy of their fellow peers and keep shared experiences in class confidential and/or anonymous.

Names and Pronouns

Students should be referred to by the name they prefer and with the proper pronunciation by the instructor of this course and other students. I will gladly honor your request to address you by the name you prefer and the gender pronouns that correspond to your gender identity. We will introduce ourselves to each other with names and pronouns when we meet the first day of class. 

Disability Access

If you need accommodations related to disability, please let me know as soon as possible so that your learning needs can be appropriately met.

Possible Adjustments to the Schedule and Content

Guest lectures and field trips might be adjusted (where, when, who). Some changes might be made in the preparational material for some classes

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 -



Course Summary:

Date Details Due