A longitudinal twin study of victimization and loneliness from childhood to young adulthood

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The present study used a longitudinal and discordant twin design to explore in depth the developmental associations between victimization and loneliness from mid-childhood to young adulthood. The data were drawn from the Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study, a birth cohort of 2,232 individuals born in England and Wales during 1994-1995. Diverse forms of victimization were considered, differing across context, perpetrator, and timing of exposure. The results indicated that exposure to different forms of victimization was associated with loneliness in a dose-response manner. In childhood, bullying victimization was uniquely associated with loneliness, over and above concurrent psychopathology, social isolation, and genetic risk. Moreover, childhood bullying victimization continued to predict loneliness in young adulthood, even in the absence of ongoing victimization. Within-twin pair analyses further indicated that this longitudinal association was explained by genetic confounds. In adolescence, varied forms of victimization were correlated with young adult loneliness, with maltreatment, neglect, and cybervictimization remaining robust to controls for genetic confounds. These findings indicate that vulnerability to loneliness in victimized young people varies according to the specific form of victimization in question, and also to the developmental period in which it was experienced.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Early online date13 Oct 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Oct 2020


  • Bullying
  • Cybervictimization
  • Loneliness
  • Twin study
  • Victimization


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