An unclear self leads to poor mental health: Self-concept confusion mediates the association of loneliness with depression

Richman, Stephanie B,; Pond, Richard, S., Jr.; DeWall, C. Nathan; Kumashiro, Madoka; Slotter, Erica, B. and Luchies, Laura, B.. 2016. An unclear self leads to poor mental health: Self-concept confusion mediates the association of loneliness with depression. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, Copyright Guilford Press. Reprinted with permission of The Guilford Press, 35(7), pp. 525-550. ISSN 0736-7236 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Past research has established that loneliness is associated with both self-concept confusion and depression. The present work ties these disparate lines of research together by demonstrating that self-concept confusion mediates the relationship between loneliness and depression. Three studies, one cross-sectional and two longitudinal, supported this hypothesis. Moreover, the model was supported both in samples of dating and married couples and in samples of noncouples. This research contributes to a greater understanding of why people who feel socially disconnected have poor mental health. Understanding this mechanism has important implications for strategies targeting the early prevention of depression and improving mental health outcomes.

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The first two authors contributed equally to this work.

This research would not have been possible without funding from grants from NSF (BCS-11041118 to Nathan DeWall; BCS-719780 to Eli Finkel and BCS-0132398 to Caryl Rusbult) and Templeton Foundation (Grant 5158) to Caryl Rusbult.

Address correspondence to Stephanie B. Richman, Department of Psychology, Westminster College, New Wilmington, PA 16172 or Richard S. Pond, Jr., Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, NC, 28403; E-mail: or

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loneliness, self-concept confusion, depression, relationships

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10 February 2016Accepted
1 September 2016Published

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Date Deposited:

04 Nov 2016 17:54

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29 Apr 2020 16:21

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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