Testing the Social Risk Hypothesis Model of Depression

  • Author / Creator
    Dunn, Joshua
  • 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.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2009
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.