The Effect of Duration of Depressive Episode on the Response of Others

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This experiment examined an interpersonal-process view of depression by assessing subjects' reactions to a request for help from a hypothetical person with whom they had been acquainted for a relatively short (2 weeks) or long (1 year) period of time and who had been depressed for either a relatively short (a few days) or long (most of 9 months) period of time. Subjects responded to each of the four hypothetical persons by indicating their probable affective reactions to the request, the number of minutes they would be willing to help, their desire for future social contact, and their expectations of future requests for help. Requests from long-duration depressives elicited significantly more anger regardless of length of acquaintance. Duration of depression × length of acquaintance interaction effects supported the prediction of a reduction in social support and an increase in rejection of the depressed person over the course of a relatively long depressive episode. Path analyses provided limited support for the hypothesis that the effect of duration of depression on willingness to help and desire for future contact is mediated by affective reactions to the request for help.

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Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, v. 7, issue 4, p. 297-311