The relationship of autonomy-relatedness to symptoms of self-critical and dependent depression in young adults with depressive disorders
Garrison, Sue Ann
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Classic views of adolescent-parent relationships include beliefs that adolescents desire independence from their parents and that a primary developmental task of adolescence is to achieve emotional autonomy from them while maintaining an engaged relationship. As adolescents individuate from parents, they begin to orient more towards peers and apply the internal working models they have developed of parental relationships to peer relationships. Disruptions in the process of individuation and/or development of internal working models of warm, responsive others may lead to the development of psychopathology, in particular, depressive symptoms. The current study investigated how autonomy and relatedness in conflict resolution between late adolescent peers is related to self-critical and dependent depression. Thirty-nine clinically depressed (as assessed by a structured DSM-FV clinical interview and self-report questionnaires) females in their late teens to early 20s completed self-report measures of depression and discussed an area of disagreement with same-sex friends while being videotaped; friends completed a measure of dependent and self-critical depression about the participants. The interactions were coded using the Autonomy and Relatedness Coding System (Allen, Hauser, Bell, Boykin, & Tate, 1994) to determine level of autonomy and relatedness. It was hypothesized that individuals experiencing dependent symptoms of depression, as indicated by both self- and fiiend-reports, were expected to exhibit relatedness while exhibiting low levels of autonomy. On the other hand, it was expected that individuals with self- and friend-reported symptoms of self-critical depression would exhibit high levels of autonomy while undermining the autonomy of others; in addition, these individuals were expected to undermine relatedness. It was hypothesized that dependent depression would be associated with exhibiting rather than inhibiting relatedness as well as low levels of exhibiting autonomy; self-critical depression was expected to be related to exhibiting autonomy while inhibiting others' autonomy and inhibiting relatedness. These hypotheses were minimally supported. Self-reported symptoms of dependent depression were related to the number of questions asked during conflict resolution whereas self-reported self-critical symptoms were related to pressuring a friend to agree. A series of hierarchical regressions were not significant overall although individual predictors were significant. Closeness of relationship was negatively related to self-ratings of dependent depression and rating of disagreement was positively related to self-reported self-critical symptoms. When friend ratings were analyzed, undermining autonomy was positively related to participants' dependent depression as rated by peers whereas validating was positively related to friend-reported self-critical symptoms. Higher levels of disagreement were related to friend-rated self-critical depression. Undermining autonomy was positively related and undermining relatedness was negatively related to dependent symptoms as rated by friends. Rating of disagreement, agreeing, and critical/hostile remarks were positively related to self-critical symptoms as rated by friends. Results indicated that dependency and autonomy themes are related to depressive subtypes, and should encourage therapists to consider dependency and autonomy as legitimate targets for intervention with depressed clients.