Vulnerability to depression: Personality styles and coping strategies in response to rejection and failure

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Adele M. Hayes - Committee Chair

Second Committee Member

A. Rodney Wellens - Committee Member


Social dependence has been more strongly related to depressed mood than autonomy/perfectionism in response to personality-congruent negative life events. This study examined how individuals with these two personality styles responded to each of two hypothetical negative life events, one that matched one's personality style, the other not matching. Responses to negative life events were examined in terms of effect on self worth, mood (depressed mood, as well as anxiety and anger), coping style, and perceived confidence of coping effectively. Two hundred twenty undergraduates (111 women and 109 men, age range $=$ 17 to 45 years) completed the Short Form Beck Depression Inventory (Beck & Beck, 1972) and the Personal Style Inventory-II (PSI-II: Robins, Ladd, Welkowitz, Blaney, Diaz, & Kutcher, 1994). After listening to two counterbalanced audiotaped scenarios, one of a social rejection event and one of an achievement-failure event, participants completed a mood questionnaire, the situational version of the COPE inventory (Carver, Scheier, & Weintraub, 1989), and two questions regarding perceived confidence of coping effectively with each negative life event. Social dependency predicted increased feelings of unlovability and depressed mood, but not anxiety, and decreased confidence of responding effectively across both negative life events. Autonomy/perfectionism predicted increased anxiety and anger, but not depressed mood, across both conditions. In terms of coping, social dependency predicted increased use of interpersonal, emotion-focused, and Passive coping responses. Autonomy/perfectionism marginally predicted increased use of interpersonal and problem-focused coping responses, with increased use of distraction only in response to the social rejection event. Social dependence may confer a more generalized vulnerability because negative events impact their sense of self, mood, and confidence. In addition, individuals with this orientation use depressogenic coping responses. Autonomy/perfectionism was not associated with depressogenic coping strategies, and the coping responses used by persons with this orientation may serve as a buffer against depressed mood.


Psychology, Social; Psychology, Personality

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