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Interpersonal differences in sociotropic and autonomous dysthymic subtypes Bieling, Peter J.


The current study reviews theoretical and research evidence which links the concepts of sociotropy and autonomy to depression. The concepts of sociotropy and autonomy have been implicated as relevant factors in pre-disposing individuals to depression and as influencing the experience of depression; however, important postulated interpersonal differences have not been examined empirically. The current study explores theoretical interpersonal differences in sociotropic or autonomous dysthymic women. The motivational goals, interpersonal concerns, and other perceptions of sociotropic and autonomous individuals were assessed after an interpersonal interaction. Subjects who were found to be dysthymic and displayed excessive sociotropy or autonomy were asked to participate in a laboratory task with a confederate who acted either in a controlling or passive manner. Sociotropic subjects were more motivated by interpersonal goals in the interaction than autonomous subjects. Sociotropes were more dependent on their partners and felt that they had to rely on them to a greater extent for support, help, and advice; they also attempted to please their partner and were concerned about their partner's evaluation of them. These individuals felt their partner had evaluated them positively, was dependable, and was pleased with them. On the other hand, autonomous individuals felt that they were being intruded upon by their partner during the interaction, that their partner had acted in a controlling manner, and that their partner had perfectionistic standards. Perceptions of others was independent of actual behaviour of interaction partners. Moreover, sociotropic subjects were better liked by confederates than were autonomous subjects and confederates rated sociotropics as more likeable. These results indicate that sociotropic individuals are more interpersonally oriented than autonomous individuals and that these individuals not only perceive others differently, but are perceived differently by others. Implications for interpersonal models of depression are discussed and the possible impact of these differences on the experience of depression are examined.

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