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Depression and Relationship Dysfunction from Adolescence to Adulthood

  • Author(s): Trombello, Joseph Michael
  • Advisor(s): Bradbury, Thomas N
  • et al.
Abstract

This project employs a developmental framework guided by interpersonal theories of depression and the transmission of intimate relationship dysfunction to offspring. We use two datasets to consider the independent and interactive impact of depression history, parental divorce and conflict, and relationship quality with parents on subsequent intimate relationship functioning from adolescence throughout the first eight years of marriage. The first study, using a longitudinal sample of adolescents, determined that participant/maternal relationship quality and parental marital stability predicted relationship conflict and satisfaction approximately 13 years later. Furthermore, adolescent depression history amplified the effect of some family-of-origin variables on some relationship outcomes. Study 2, using a longitudinal sample of newlywed couples, found that neither depression history nor family-of-origin variables predicted or interacted to enhance risky partner selection (with partner's risk defined through a factor- analyzed construct of emotion dysregulation). Instead, one's own level of risk was a strong predictor of partner's risk, supportive assortative mating theories. Study 3, again using the longitudinal newlywed sample, examined which components of intimate relationship communication predicted depressive symptoms approximately eight years later. Results demonstrated that participant's post-interaction evaluations of a negative mood were more consistent predictors of future depression than externally-rated communication behaviors, affect or skills, for both men and women. In addition, among men, a history of clinical or subclinical depression amplified the association between participant's negative evaluations of marital interactions and subsequent depressive symptoms. Taken together, these results suggest that factors well before relationship entry (i.e., psychopathology, familial functioning, emotion dysregulation) impact the quality of later intimate relationships, as well as characteristics of selected relationship partners. Furthermore, we provide evidence supporting attending to participant's evaluations and interpretations of marital interactions as predictors of later depressive symptoms beyond the content of this interpersonal communication.

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