Self-complexity (SC) theory proposes that a highly differentiated self-concept protects against the depressogenic impact of negative life events. Linville's influential prospective study appeared to support this proposition (P. W. Linville, 1987). Subsequent reports have raised questions about the construct validity of Linville's operationalization of self-complexity (defined by the degree to which self-reported personality descriptors are dispersed across self-aspects), as well as the robustness of a buffering effect of self-complexity. In the present replication, Linville's SC measure was again found to moderate the impact of stress on depressive symptoms. However, contrary to SC theory, the form of the Stress × SC interaction was not clearly consistent with stress protection. Also contrary to SC theory, the interaction of stress and SC was entirely explained by the number of self-descriptive personality traits endorsed in the SC task. Both of these findings suggest that with regard to depressive symptoms, reports of a stress-buffering effect for self-complexity are premature.
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Solomon, A., Haaga, D.A.F. Reconsideration of Self-Complexity as a Buffer Against Depression. Cognitive Therapy and Research 27, 579–591 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1026311222295