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Volume 5, Pages 535-544
Research Article

Adolescents with Chronic Illnesses: School Absenteeism, Perceived Peer Aggression, and Loneliness

1Discipline of Psychology, School of Behavioural and Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Ballarat, P.O. Box 663, Ballarat, Victoria 3353, Australia
2School of Psychology, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100 Adelaide, South Australia 5001, Australia
3Boylan Ward, Women's and Children's Hospital, 72 King William Road, North Adelaide, South Australia 5006, Australia

Received 16 May 2005; Revised 21 June 2005; Accepted 26 June 2005

Copyright © 2005 Rosalyn H. Shute and Christine Walsh.


Frequent school absence is often cited as a risk factor for peer relationship problems in youngsters with chronic illnesses, but this assumption has not been subjected to quantitative empirical examination. This issue was examined in the present study by exploring the relationship between school absenteeism, peer aggression, and loneliness in adolescents with chronic illnesses. Forty-one adolescents with chronic illnesses completed a modified version of the Direct and Indirect Aggression Scale and the Asher Loneliness Scale. Details of school absences and hospitalizations were obtained from parents and school and hospital records. No evidence was found to support the notion that peer aggression and loneliness are related to absenteeism, but social aggression (for both boys and girls) and verbal aggression (more markedly for girls) were associated with loneliness. Of the group, 19% reported experiencing verbal aggression and 12% social aggression at least weekly; informal qualitative data suggesting that such aggression is often related to limited sporting ability and appearance. Interventions at both the individual and school community level are warranted.