Dissertations and Theses

Date of Award

2022

Document Type

Dissertation

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Sasha Rudenstine

Keywords

Trait emotional intelligence, depression, loneliness, interpersonal sensitivity, rejection sensitivity, perceived social support, interpersonal regulation, isolation

Abstract

Reducing the prevalence of loneliness and depression are important public health objectives. This dissertation aims to contribute to these objectives by improving our understanding of the relationship between loneliness and depression. Specifically, we assessed three additional constructs known to be strongly associated with loneliness and depression –-perceived social support, emotional intelligence, and interpersonal sensitivity –- with the aim of showing how these three constructs influence the relationship between loneliness and depression. Previous research that jointly examines all five constructs has not been identified by the author in an extensive search of prior literature.

Specifically, this dissertation tested the following hypotheses: (1) loneliness is a better predictor of depression than depression is of loneliness, (2) trait emotional intelligence is a moderator of the relationship between loneliness and depression, (3) interpersonal sensitivity and perceived social support mediate the relationships between trait emotional intelligence, loneliness and depression, and (4) aspects of trait emotional intelligence related to regulating emotions are more important than other aspects of trait emotional intelligence in these relationships.

Our results lend further support for the strong bilateral associations discovered by previous researchers between loneliness, depression, trait emotional intelligence, interpersonal sensitivity and perceived social support.

Further, our analyses suggest that a complex set of paths connects trait emotional intelligence to depression through interpersonal sensitivity, PSS and loneliness. Our path model has high explanatory power. The R-squared is .65 for depression, .55 for loneliness and .45 for IS, though only .06 for PSS. Our results suggest that the aversive experience of loneliness, which arguably has evolved to encourage people to seek social connections, instead leads to depression when high interpersonal sensitivity makes the experience of reaching out to others even more aversive than loneliness. Emotional intelligence reduces interpersonal sensitivity, thereby reducing both loneliness and depression.

This dissertation helps to close the gaps in previous research in four ways. First, because the research underlying this dissertation simultaneously considered all five constructs (loneliness, depression, trait emotional intelligence, perceived social support, and interpersonal sensitivity), it was possible to construct a more comprehensive model of the interactions among the five constructs. Second, the individual trait EI dimensions and loneliness factors, as well as their interactions, were explicitly considered, allowing for a clearer picture of the psychological mechanisms that link the five constructs. Third, are results are contextualized in the extensive existing clinical literature on the etiology and treatment of depression. Finally, this dissertation contributes to the generalizability of past research results as the sample comprises subjects seeking psychological services in a diverse, urban community clinic.

Available for download on Tuesday, January 17, 2023

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