This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Unpacking the Links between Interpersonal Relationship Features and Depression in Adolescence and Young Adulthood




Goodman, Rebecca

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Human Development and Family Studies


Depression is a rapidly growing problem with enormous economic and social burden (World Health Organization, 2017b), with rates increasing by about 1.5 to 2 million adults per decade recently (Greenberg et al., 2015; Marcus & Olfson, 2010). Considering the rise of depression in context, interpersonal theories of depression suggest that that close relationships both impact and are impacted by the development of depressive symptoms (Joiner, Brown, & Kistner, 2006; Joiner & Coyne, 1999; Rudolph, Flynn, & Abaied, 2008). This dissertation builds on this program of research by evaluating the links between depressive symptoms and key interpersonal relationship contexts during the critical period of adolescence and young adulthood, as well as whether gender moderated these associations. Study 1 aimed to tease apart antecedent versus consequence in the links between symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and problematic parent, peer, and romantic relationships from ages 11 to 29 using a large community sample (N = 1,517). Results showed evidence of both socialization and selection effects across all developmental transitions, with some evidence that antisocial peer affiliation may be more relevant to the development of MDD for males, whereas relationship problems with parents and romantic partners may be more relevant for females. Study 2 takes a more nuanced approach by examining the links between parent, sibling, peer, and romantic partner relationship support as they relate to depressive symptoms during the first year of college, which has been identified as a particularly at-risk time for the development of depression (Beiter et al., 2015; Buchanan, 2012). Results suggest that greater support from parents and peers but not necessarily siblings are most relevant to depressive symptoms at this time. Also, the nature of this effect of parent support on depressive symptoms was about two-fold for females compared to males. Moreover, romantic partner support was associated with an increased likelihood of meeting a clinical threshold for depression, but only for females and not males. Overall, these studies demonstrate that interpersonal relationships and depressive symptoms work together in complex ways and support interpersonal theories of depression (Joiner & Coyne, 1999; Rudolph, Flynn, & Abaied, 2008). Results highlight the need to consider strengthening social networks as a means to offset risk for and treat depressive symptoms during the critical development period of adolescence and the transition into young adulthood.