Research on Solitude

Dr. Robert Coplan | Psychology, Carleton University


Never has it been more important to consider the causes and consequences of solitude for well-being and mental health. This presentation will describe a program of research that has explored the complex links between experiences of solitude and socio-emotional functioning in childhood and adolescence. This research includes an examination of: (1) both the costs and benefits of solitude; (2) different "reasons" why children and adolescents spend time in solitude; (3) the implications of spending too much versus not enough time alone; and (4) how these processes play out at different stages of development.  


Robert Coplan is a Chancellor’s Professor in the Department of Psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa. He also holds international cross-appointments in Faculty of Education at Shanghai Normal University in China and the Department of Special Needs Education at the University of Olso. His general research interests are in the areas of children’s socio-emotional functioning and developmental psychopathology. In particular, he has extensively examined the development of shyness, social withdrawal, and social anxiety in childhood and adolescence. Current research projects focus on the causes and consequences of solitude across development, the challenges faced by shy and anxious children at school, and the meaning and implications of social withdrawal across different cultures. His most recent books include the edited volume The Handbook of Solitude: Psychological Perspectives on Social Isolation, Social Withdrawal, and Being Alone (2ndEdition), the authored book Quiet at School: An Educator’s Guide to Shy Children, and the forthcoming popular press book All Alone: The Power and Paradox of Solitude (to be published next year by Simon & Shuster).