Social isolation from childhood to young adulthood: Identifying patterns of stability and change for a better understanding of later health and functioning
Positive social relationships, particularly at a young age, are critical for later health and wellbeing. Social isolation occurs when there is a severe lack or absence of social relationships and interpersonal connections. This isolation has been explored in older populations and has been associated with implications for both mental and physical health. There has been little focus on the impact of prolonged social isolation in childhood, at a stage of life where emotional and behavioural development is shaped for later years. Research has shown that there is a substantial genetic predisposition for social isolation, thus longitudinal assessment of social isolation in childhood whilst controlling for genetic influence is needed. This approach can help clarify the impact that social isolation has on later life outcomes in four key domains of mental health, physical health-related behaviours, educational attainment and employment, and criminal offending. The use of the Environmental Risk Longitudinal Twin Study of 2232 twin pairs assessed at ages 5, 7, 10, 12 and 18 years will provide valuable information on social isolation at various time points throughout childhood and assess how these relate to health outcomes at age 18. Results from the proposed project will help inform interventions and coping strategies at an early age to help reduce social isolation in young children and subsequently reduce the likelihood of mental and physical health problems in later life.
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2 – Life Course, Psychology, & Health