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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The interpersonal response to depression as a function of two levels of intimacy Franche, Renée-Louise


Coyne's interactional formulation of depression (Coyne, 1976) states that the demands for support of the depressed individual are initially met with understanding but that over time, depressed persons engender increasingly negative reactions from others. The rejection of the depressed person is said to be mediated by a depressed mood induction in the other person. Coyne's model is primarily concerned with interactions involving family and friends of the depressed person, but in the past it has consistently been tested in laboratory situations examining interactions between strangers. The present study attempted to examine subjects' reactions to interaction with a depressed person, within the context of simulated relationships between friends or between strangers. It distinguished between compliance and initiation as expressions of rejection, and investigated the controversial issue of whether or not rejection is mediated by a depressed mood induction. An exploratory aspect of the study involved an inquiry into the potential role of interpersonal needs in the response to depressed individuals. The study was twofold: in the first part, the stimulus consisted of a videotaped interaction between two trained actresses portraying a depressed woman and a non-depressed woman in the experimental condition, and two non-depressed women in the control condition. In the second part, the same interactions were described in written scenarios. Subjects were instructed to imagine themselves as the non-depressed person interacting with the target person, as either strangers or best friends. Thus, the study consisted of two parallel 2X2 designs. Subjects completed the Multiple Affect Adjective Checklist, the Wessman-Ricks Depression-Elation Scale, and the Mehrabian-Russell Semantic Differential at pretest and posttest to measure mood induction. Need for nurturance and need for autonomy were measured at pretest with the Interpersonal Adjective Scale, the Jackson Personality Research Form and the Campbell Need Scale. Posttest acceptance-rejection measures included a modified version of the Opinion Scale and the Impact Message Inventory. Results indicated that interactions with depressed individuals elicit a diffuse negative mood, more so in the context of relationships between friends, in the case of the written scenarios method. Depressed targets were also more rejected than non-depressed targets, but contrary to predictions intimacy decreased the degree of rejection. Rejection was not differentiated into the two concepts of compliance and initiation; however, results pointed to two distinct aspects of rejection - a behavioral aspect and a perceptual one. Mood induction appeared to be related only to the perceptual aspect of rejection, and not to the more salient behavioral one. The contribution of interpersonal needs to rejection appears equivocal; if indeed needs play a role in the mediation of rejection, need for nurturance seems to be more involved than need for autonomy. Although no Method effects were predicted, levels of intimacy were apparently not successfully reproduced in the videotaped stimuli. The two methods at times yielded different results, and further research will clarify their respective external validity. In light of the results of the present study, Coyne's model was in part supported but appears to be in need of serious revisions concerning the mediation of rejection and the effect of intimacy on rejection.

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