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Testing the Social Risk Hypothesis Model of Depression Open Access


Other title
social risk hypothesis, depression, evolution
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Dunn, Joshua
Supervisor and department
William Whelton
Donald Heth
Barbara Paulson
Examining committee member and department
George Buck
Douglas Gross
Gordon Flett
Department of Educational Psychology

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
The main purpose of this research project was to test the social risk hypothesis of depression proposed by Allen and Badcock (2003). The social risk hypothesis suggests that mild to moderate depression has evolved to promote belonging in small communities by making members sensitive to signs of rejection and motivated to restore their social value. Using self-report data from 397 working adult participants, structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to examine the relationships between secure attachment, social comparison, defeat, self-esteem, depression, submissive behaviours, social risk taking, and interpersonal sensitivity. Two further studies were also performed. The first tested whether the social risk hypothesis could explain anxiety as well as depression. The second tested gender invariance within the models of depression and anxiety. The dissertation is organized into three papers, preceded by a general introduction and followed by a general conclusion. The first paper is focused on the general test of the social risk hypothesis, the second on the comparison test of anxiety, and the third on the role of gender in the models generated. In the first paper, the SEM analysis indicated a good fit between the data and Allen and Badcock's (2003) algorithmic model, providing empirical support for an evolved adaptive mechanism functioning in mild to moderate depression. Paper 2 reports a test of Allen and Badcock's (2003) claim that the social risk hypothesis is exclusive to depression. In general, the anxiety model provided a fairly good fit to the social risk hypothesis; however, anxiety did not mediate the relationship between secure attachment and the two outcome variables (i.e., interpersonal sensitivity and submissive behaviours) suggesting that depression and anxiety have not evolved to function in exactly the same way. The goal of Paper 3 was to examine how the variables within the social risk hypothesis might operate differently for men and women given that past research strongly indicates that gender may have differential effects on the depressive (or anxious) mechanism. Two differences were found in the gender invariance analysis: i) the relationship between secure attachment and depression was much stronger for men; ii) men and women differed on the relationship between social comparison and anxiety. The papers discuss the findings from the perspective of evolutionary theory.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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