Rejection Sensitivity and Direct and Indirect Support Seeking

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Those high in rejection sensitivity (RS) have expectations of being rejected by others, and often construe vague interpersonal cues as rejection, and react to rejection whether it is true or perceived (Downy & Feldman, 1996). Williams and Mickelson (2008) suggest fear of rejection may guide individuals to seek support through indirect (rather than direct) behaviors, which are associated with low social support. Indeed, Brookings, Zembar and Hochstetler explored personalities of high-RS individuals and found individuals with high-RS likely avoid situations where rejection is possible and remain detached from others rather than attempting close relationships (2001). This study examines RS and the choice to disclose or not to disclose personally negative (i.e., stigmatizing) information to a potentially close individual (friend, family). While previous research has explored this relation using a crude measure of fear of rejection, we expanded that prior work by assessing RS with a well established scale. In addition, the current study explores specific characteristics of a stigmatizing identity (saliency, visibility, secrecy, and thinking about) and their relation with both RS and help seeking. Our hypotheses are that as RS increases direct help seeking will decrease and indirect help seeking will increase. In addition, we believe that the characteristics of a stigmatizing identity would be related to high levels of RS, as well as increased indirect seeking and decreased direct seeking. We collected data from 659 (69% female) students at a southeastern university through participation in an online survey. We tested our hypothesis with bivariate correlations and found that direct help seeking behaviors were negatively correlated with RS (r= -.166; p =.01) and indirect help seeking behaviors were positively correlated with RS (r=.183; p=.01). Secrecy was positively correlated with RS and indirect help seeking (r=.190 and r=.199 respectively; p =.01) and negatively correlated with direct help seeking (r= -.191; p =.01).


New Orleans, LA

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