How do childless older people experience loneliness? A research into different types and patterns of loneliness and the moderating role of reasons for childlessness.

Project Details


Having children is often seen as a benefit in later life: children are an important component in the social network of older people and are often the main informal caregivers.
Despite the fact that levels of childlessness have been increasing rapidly in most European countries, the way how childless older people experience their social network and loneliness remains underresearched. The state of the art reveals three scientific gaps: the need to
1) study different reasons for childlessness,
2) study different types of loneliness and
3) employ a life course perspective. In response, this study investigates the relation between childlessness and different types and patterns of loneliness, and how reasons for childlessness moderate this relation. A mixed-method approach will be used:
1) a systematic literature review, 2) qualitative life story interviews with (childless) older people using the approach of McAdams and 3) a standardized survey among a representative sample of older adults. The research aims to contribute to loneliness theories by introducing a life course approach (i.e. gaining insights on the dynamics and patterns of loneliness during the life course and on how childlessness has effects in old age).
The results can be used to inform prevention programs aiming to decrease loneliness, and in particular among childless older people.
Effective start/end date1/11/2031/10/24


  • Childlessness
  • Loneliness
  • Older adults

Flemish discipline codes 2018-2023

  • Developmental psychology and ageing not elsewhere classified
  • Civic learning and community development
  • Social gerontology and sociology of ageing
  • Sociology of life course, family and health not elsewhere classified


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