A self-fulfilling prophecy in friendships: Rejection sensitivity and hostility as predictors of poor friendship quality

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Abstract Summary

Rejection sensitive people tend to anxiously expect, readily perceive, and overreact to rejection. This disposition has been associated with maladaptive behavioral responses and poor relationship outcomes. To date, the rejection sensitivity (RS) literature has focused on romantic relationships in young adulthood, leaving much unknown about friendships, a central relationship of this period. The current study examined RS and hostility as predictors of friendship discord and closeness in young adults. We hypothesized that increased RS and hostility would predict reduced closeness and increased discord in friendships. A college sample completed a battery of self-report questionnaires to assess RS, hostility, and friendship quality. Regression analyses indicated that RS and hostility account for 10 and 13% of the variance in friendship closeness and discord. Hostility emerged as the strongest predictor of reduced closeness and increased discord, and RS accounted for a significant amount of additional variance. Findings extend prior research with romantic relationships and indicate that rejection sensitivity and associated behavioral responses predict poorer quality friendships. Rejection sensitive people are characteristically fearful of possible rejection from others and tend to respond to perceived rejection experiences in maladaptive ways (e.g., hostility). These concerns and reactions may serve as a self-fulfilling cycle and inadvertently contribute to their feared outcomes: rejection from friends evidenced by reduced closeness and increased discord. Interventions targeting more adaptive responding may be particularly beneficial for RS individuals to improve close relationships and overall social functioning.


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