Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Contextual Influences on Depressed Interpersonal Behavior
by Girard, Jeffrey M., Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 2018, 88; 13819967
Abstract (Summary)

Clinical theories converge in hypothesizing that depression is linked to reduced interpersonal agency, which often manifests in an increase in submissive behavior. There is mounting support for this hypothesis from studies using dispositional measures of interpersonal style. However, numerous questions remain about how depression influences actual interpersonal behavior both within and across real-life situations. In particular, relatively little is known about how situational context influences depressed individuals' interpersonal behavior.

The current studies used a “multi-tiered” approach to address this gap in the literature, combining dispositional, cross-situation (i.e., ambulatory assessment), and within-situation (i.e., observational) measures of interpersonal behavior. The interpersonal dimensions of agency (i.e., dominance–submissiveness) and communion (i.e., affiliation–separation) were examined across all tiers in a large sample of clinical and community participants.

Analyses revealed a more nuanced picture of depressed interpersonal behavior than a simple reduction in agency. When dispositional measures were examined, most depressed participants did endorse one of two submissive styles (i.e., submissive affiliation or submissive separation). However, a non-trivial proportion of depressed participants (e.g., those with “Cluster B” or dramatic/erratic personality traits) endorsed more dominant interpersonal styles. Thus, depression is often, but not always, linked to submissive dispositional traits.

Mean differences between depressed and non-depressed participants were also subtle when cross-situation and within-situation measures were examined. Depression was associated with more negative affect during interactions and more bias when interpreting romantic partners' behavior in terms of agency. However, significant effects of depression on participants' overall agency and communion were not found. Rather, depressed participants were subject to most of the same interpersonal processes as non-depressed participants and differed only subtly in terms of perceptions and reactivity.

Depressed or not, participants tended to match with their interaction partners on communion and mismatch on agency. They found their interaction partners' separative behavior to be unpleasant and tended to respond to partners' negative affect with separative behavior. These results underscore the importance of understanding depressed behavior within its broader interpersonal and affective contexts. Depression may be related to a general decrease in interpersonal agency, but different situations can easily draw out different behaviors.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Wright, Aidan G.C., Cohn, Jeffrey F.
Commitee: Cohn, Jeffrey F., Pilkonis, Paul A., Silk, Jennifer S., Stepp, Stephanie D., Wright, Aidan G. C.
School: University of Pittsburgh
Department: Psychology (Clinical)
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-B 80/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Clinical psychology, Personality psychology
Keywords: Ambulatory, Behavior, Depression, Interpersonal, Observational
Publication Number: 13819967
ISBN: 9780438777149
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