Experiencing loneliness in parenthood: A scoping review

Nowland, Rebecca orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-4326-2425, Thomson, Gillian orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-3392-8182, McNally, Lara, Smith, Timothy orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-1460-7394 and Whittaker, Karen orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-3493-9396 (2021) Experiencing loneliness in parenthood: A scoping review. Perspectives in Public Health, 141 (4). pp. 214-225. ISSN 1757-9139

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1177/17579139211018243


Aims: Chronic loneliness is experienced by around a third of parents, but there is no comprehensive review into how, why and which parents experience loneliness. This scoping review aimed to provide insight into what is already known about parental loneliness and give directions for further applied and methodological research.
Method: Searches for peer reviewed articles were undertaken in six databases: PsycINFO, Medline, CINAHL, Embase, Web of Science and Scopus, during May 2019 to February 2020. We searched for English studies which examined loneliness experienced during parenthood, including studies that involved parents with children under 16 years and living at home and excluding studies on pregnancy, childbirth or post-birth hospital care.
Results: From 2566 studies retrieved, 133 were included for analysis. Most studies (n=80) examined the experience of loneliness in specific groups of parents, e.g. teenage parents, parents of a disabled child. Other studies examined theoretical issues (n=6) or health and well-being impacts on parents (n=16) and their offspring (n=17). There were 14 intervention studies with parents that measured loneliness as an outcome. Insights indicate that parental loneliness may be different to loneliness experienced in other cohorts. There is evidence that parental loneliness has direct and intergenerational impacts on parent and child mental health. Some parents (e.g. with children with chronic illness or disability, immigrant or ethnic minority parents) also appear to be at increased risk of loneliness although evidence is not conclusive.
Conclusion: This work has identified key gaps with further international, comparative and conceptual research needed.

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