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Relational Stressors and Depressive Symptoms in Late Adolescence: Rejection Sensitivity as a Vulnerability

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Abstract

The role of rejection sensitivity as a critical diathesis moderating the link between adolescent relational stressors and depressive symptoms was examined using multi-method, multi-reporter data from a diverse community sample of 173 adolescents, followed from age 16 to 18. Relational stressors examined included emotional abuse, maternal behavior undermining adolescents’ autonomy and relatedness, and lack of support from close peers. As hypothesized, multiple relational stressors were found to predict the future development of depressive symptoms, but as hypothesized predictions existed primarily for adolescents who were highly rejection sensitive. Results are discussed in terms of a diathesis-stress model of depression and suggest that though relational stressors have previously shown consistent modest links to depressive symptoms, understanding pre-existing intrapsychic vulnerabilities of the adolescent may be critical to identifying the processes by which such stressors lead to depressive symptoms.

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Acknowledgments

This study and its write-up were supported by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute of Mental Health (9R01 HD058305-11A1 & R01-MH58066).

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Correspondence to Joanna M. Chango.

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Chango, J.M., McElhaney, K.B., Allen, J.P. et al. Relational Stressors and Depressive Symptoms in Late Adolescence: Rejection Sensitivity as a Vulnerability. J Abnorm Child Psychol 40, 369–379 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-011-9570-y

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