Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program



English (en)

Date of Award

Winter 12-1-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Chair and Committee

Thomas F. Oltmanns


Personality disorders are theoretically and empirically linked to experiencing high negative affect, such as depression, and individuals with features from some personality disorders, such as borderline: BDL) and avoidant: AVD), are hyper-responsive to rejection. Loneliness has also been established as a vulnerability to the onset of depressive episodes and as an outcome to rejection sensitivity, however the relationship between personality pathology and loneliness is still unclear. The purpose of this study is to compare whether AVD and BDL features might be differentially associated with depression scores by analyzing the interaction with life events and loneliness. We studied a representative, community-based sample: N= 976) of older adults over six months. The main effects of loneliness and the occurrence of a life event independently predicted increased depressive symptoms while controlling for gender, race, baseline depressive scores and personality pathology. The presence of a life event strengthens the relationship between depressive symptoms and personality pathology, specifically AVD and BDL features. This interaction is significant even though individuals with AVD features do not typically experience stressful life events. Male participants with higher scores on BDL symptoms and loneliness are more likely to experience depressive symptoms at follow up, but this effect was not found in females. Participants with higher loneliness and AVD scores together are at higher risk of experiencing subsequent depression. The implications of these findings are discussed further.


This work is not available online per the author’s request. For access information, please contact or visit

Permanent URL:

Included in

Psychology Commons