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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Rejection sensitivity in early adolescence Tsirgielis, Constantina


Repeated rejection experiences may encourage a hypersensitivity to rejection stimuli and cues, defined as rejection sensitivity (RS): a dispositional pattern of responding in relationships with defensive expectations of rejection (Downey et al., 1998). Rejection sensitive youth perceive signs of rejection in situations others would consider neutral or ambiguous. Hypersensitivity to social rejection increases anxiety in social interactions where rejection is possible and leads to withdrawal, feelings of loneliness, social anxiety (SA), and depression. RS therefore can be considered a mechanism to explain the development of internalizing disorders such as SA. SA youth are also hypersensitive to cues of rejection, and tend to withdraw from their peer groups to avoid possible rejection, which leads to loneliness, depression, interpersonal problems, and increased SA (Sameroff & MacKenzie, 2003). Previous research reviewed the impact of RS on youth’s social and emotional wellbeing and have identified SA as a potential outcome of RS (Bowker et al., 2011, Marston et al., 2010, McDonald et al., 2010). There is limited research investigating the bidirectional relationship between RS-Anxiety and SA. Self-report data from grade 6 and 7 students (n=128) at a large, urban school district were collected. The goal of this research study was to 1) identify the relationship between RS-anxiety and SA, 2) determine if there are gender differences on the RS-Anxiety, and SA measures 3) investigate whether emotional symptoms influenced the relationship between RS-Anxiety and SA and 3) determine whether RS-Anxiety and SA predict peer problems in youth. Analyses performed include a bivariate correlational analysis, two-tailed independent samples t-test, a mediation analysis, and a hierarchical multiple regression. Results from the analyses revealed that there is a positive correlation between RS-Anxiety and SA, and emotional symptoms significantly mediated that relationship. SA also significantly predicted peer problems in RS-Anxious youth. However, no gender difference was found on the SA or RS-Anxiety measures.

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