Individualism and Relatedness Themes in the Context of Depression, Gender, and a Self-Schema Model of Emotion

Article excerpt

Abstract

Relatedness and individualism themes are pervasive in psychology, extending across clinical, personality, well-being, social, developmental, assessment, and psychopathology domains. Individualism themes have been described using such terms as agency, autonomy, environmental mastery, personal control, and an independent self-construal. Relatedness themes are evident in the concepts of communion, positive relations with others, collectivism, sociotropy, and an interdependent self-construal. In this article, we first consider how these themes of individualism and relatedness may permeate our understanding of gender differences in both the rate and experience of depression. We then highlight the various ways that relatedness and individualism themes have been studied across several diverse research domains in psychology, focusing on both the positive and negative variants of each construct. This review forms the basis for further establishing the importance of the themes of individualism and relatedness to depression. In doing so, we integrate these themes with a self-schema model of emotion, in which individual difference variables play a central role in emotional experiences, such as depression, for each individual. Our extension of this model focuses on determining the extent to which either relatedness or individualism, or some combination of both, may be central to a given person's experience of depression. Several applications of this self-- schema model to a clinical context with depressed individuals are then highlighted. These include a need to understand more about both the content and function of relatedness self-schemata, and their possible implications for depressed individuals; a need to consider more fully the positive aspects of both relatedness and individualism self-- schemata; a need to consider separate dysfunctional self-- evaluative belief systems that may pertain to either individualism or relatedness; and, finally, a need to consider distinct types of self-esteem that may pertain specifically to either individualism or relatedness.

GENDER ISSUES IN DEPRESSION: RELATEDNESS AND INDIVIDUALISM THEMES A gender difference in the rate of depression has been a topic investigated by many researchers in the past two decades (Shaw, Kennedy, & Joffe, 1995; Sprock & Yoder, 1997; Stoppard & McMullen, 1999). In North America, for example, women are estimated to be between two and four times more likely than men to experience unipolar depression at some point in their lives (Culbertson, 1997; Nolen-Hoeksema, 1995). This finding was initially argued to be an artifact, the result of confounding variables such as the increased helpseeking behaviour of women and gender-based diagnoses, leading to inflated rates of depression being reported for women (Shaw et al., 1995). More recent research studies, however, have verified that this 2:1 ratio is indeed reflective of a genuine difference in the rates of depression between women and men in North America (Hurst & Genest, 1995). Ensuing from the confirmation of this gender distinction in depression have been a myriad of attempts to account for this difference (Culbertson, 1997; Nolen-Hoeksema, 1995; Shaw et al., 1995). The two most prominent explanations include: (1) biological (i.e., hormonal changes), and (2) social and cultural factors. Whereas the evidence supporting a biological cause for increased depression in women is still inconclusive (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1995), the present Western sociocultural context is seen by many investigators as a viable contributing factor (Helgeson & Fritz, 1998; Hurst & Genest, 1995; Kaplan, 1986). The effect of culture is validated, in part, by the finding that gender distinctions in depression are not robust cross-culturally (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1995). In turn, this suggests that variations in cultural patterns and values may have an important role in determining differential rates of depression for women versus men. …