Adolescent Romantic Relationships and Depressive Symptoms: The Moderating Effect of Emotional Intelligence David E. Szwedo, J. Claire Stephenson, Megan Schad & Joseph P. Allen University of Virginia David E. Szwedo email@example.com This study was made possible by funding from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development awarded to Joseph P. Allen, Principal Investigator (Grant#: 9R01HD058305-11A1) Copies available online at: www.teenresearch.org Attachment Security – (Teen Age: 14) Assessed using the Adult Attachment Interview and accompanying coding system, which appraises the cognitive and affective styles with which the interviewee recalls and describes early childhood relationships (Main & Goldwyn, 1994). The coding system yields a single continuum of overall security of attachment. Romantic Attachment – (Romantic Partner Age: 18) The 36-item Experience in Close Relationships Scale – Revised yields scales for attachment-related anxiety and attachment-related avoidance in romantic relationships (α = .88; .92, respectively). Emotional Support from Best Friend (Teen Age: 16) Participants discussed a problem involving someone other than their discussion partner for 8 minutes. The present study uses coded ratings of the quality emotional support provided to teens from their best friends (interrater reliability = .60). # Previous Partners (13-22) Romantic Status (22) Attachment Security (14) Emotional Intelligence (16) Partner Attachment Avoidance (18) Depressive Symptoms (13-21) Partner Attachment Anxiety (18) Family Income Depressive Symptoms (13-21) Introduction - Romantic relationships during adolescence are associated with greater depressive symptoms for youth (see Davila, 2008; Joyner & Udry, 2000) - Emotional aspects of romantic relationships may be difficult for adolescents to manage (Larson, Clore, & Wood, 1999) - Have higher rates of extremely positive and negative emotions than adults - Attributions of emotions to romantic relationships increases across adolescence - Emotionality of romantic partners may predict negative symptoms - Attachment anxiety associated with intense negative emotions - Attachment avoidance associated with lack of emotional expression (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2005) Gender .63*** Depressive Symptoms (22) -.17* -.20* - Emotional intelligence is the ability to detect and use emotional information to solve problems and regulate thoughts and behavior (Mayer & Salovey, 1997) - May protect against depressive symptoms - Emotional availability of close others may also be protective Hypotheses: 1. Emotional intelligence will moderate the association between romantic relationship status and depressive symptoms. 2. Romantic partner attachment anxiety will predict an increase in depressive symptoms; attachment avoidance will predict a decrease in symptoms. 3. Emotional support from a close friend will predict a decrease in depressive symptoms. (Davila & Sternberg, 2008) Results Romantic Status (18) # Previous Partners (13-22) Romantic Status (22) Attachment Security (14) Emotional Intelligence (16) Emotional Intelligence X Romantic Status (18) Figure 1. Hierarchical regression paths from markers of romantic history and emotion regulation to depressive symptoms at age 22. Covariates include gender, family income, and baseline depressive symptoms. Coefficients represent standardized betas at entry to the model (covariates entered first and remaining variables entered from top to bottom). Note. N=184; Romantic Status coded 0 = Not in a relationship, 1 = In a relationship of at least 3 months duration; Teen Age in parentheses; * p ≤ .05, ** p ≤ .01, *** p ≤ .001 .18* Gender Family Income Emotional Support from Best Friend (16) Emotional Support X Emotional Intelligence .16* .54*** Figure 3. Hierarchical regression paths from markers of romantic history, emotion regulation, emotional support, and romantic partners’ emotional strategies to depressive symptoms at age 22. Covariates include gender, family income, and baseline depressive symptoms. Coefficients represent standardized betas at entry to the model (covariates entered first and remaining variables entered counterclockwise). Note. N=93; Romantic Status coded 0 = Not in a relationship, 1 = In a relationship of at least 3 months duration; Teen Age in parentheses; * p ≤ .05, ** p ≤ .01, *** p ≤ .001 Depressive Symptoms (22) β = .22 Method Participants Full sample: N = 184 Gender 85 males 99 females Race/ethnicity 107 Caucasian 53 African American 24 Mixed/Other Income Median = $40,000 - $59,000 -.17* β = -.15 Romantic Partner sub-sample: N = 93 Gender 38 males 55 females Race/ethnicity 51 Caucasian 29 African American 13 Mixed/Other Income Median = $40,000 - $59,000 Figure 4. Moderating effect of emotional intelligence on romantic relationship status at age 18 predicting relative changes in depressive symptoms at age 22. Note. * p ≤ .05, ** p ≤ .01, *** p ≤ .001 Measures Depressive Symptoms – (Teen Ages: 13-22) Assessed using the 27-item Childhood Depression Inventory and the 21-item Beck Depression Inventory (average α for CDI = .83; average α for BDI = .86). Romantic Relationship Status – (Teen Ages: 18 & 22) Adolescents reported the presence or absence of a current romantic relationship of at least 3 months. Number of Previous Relationships – (Teen Ages: 13-22) Adolescents reported the total number of romantic relationships they had in the past year. The sum of these assessments represents adolescents’ lifetime reported number of romantic relationships. Emotional Intelligence – (Teen Age: 16) The 30-item Trait Meta-Mood Scale assesses individual differences in people’s abilities to attend to, discriminate clearly among, and regulate their moods and emotions (α = .86). β = -.04 Discussion - High emotional intelligence may attenuate the association between adolescents’ engagement in romantic relationships and depressive symptoms β = .31** - Adolescents in romantic relationships may become more depressed when partners adopt emotional strategies involving intense displays of emotion and dependent behavior as opposed to a lack of emotional expressivity - Teens in romantic relationships may benefit from seeking emotional support from close friends to cope with depressive feelings - However, adolescents may only be able to make use of such support in the context of high emotional intelligence Figure 2. Moderating effect of emotional intelligence on romantic relationship status at age 18 predicting relative changes in depressive symptoms at age 22.