Date of Award

8-2015

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Advisor

Douglas W. Nangle

Second Committee Member

Cynthia A. Erdley

Third Committee Member

Sandra T. Sigmon

Additional Committee Members

Shannon McCoy

K. Lira Yoon

Abstract

Involving being excluded, ignored, or-at its extreme-being given the "silent treatment,” ostracism can be subtle or ambiguous. Yet, youth who are ostracized may be especially susceptible to experiencing distress, and peer or adjustment difficulties. In fact, Leary, Kowalksi, Smith and Phillips (2003) found, in an analysis of news reports, that 13 of 15 youth responsible for recent U.S. school shootings had been ostracized or victimized by their peers and/or individuals of romantic interest. Although ostracism is a common experience that is not typically associated with such violent consequences, incidents such as these emphasize the importance of answering poorly understood questions about which youth may be more susceptible to the negative effects of ostracism.

The present study modified a recently developed social/cyberostracism paradigm, O-Cam, for use with a youth population. A brief laboratory ostracism simulation allowed for the examination of whether social anxiety and threat bias were associated with heightened ostracism response. The study also investigated whether the ostracism that participants self-reported in their everyday lives was related to laboratory ostracism response, and to social anxiety and depressive symptoms. Eighty community adolescents in the 6th through 9th grades were randomly assigned to be either ostracized or included during O-Cam. The four markers of ostracism distress were: threat to the primary needs, report of being ignored/excluded, decreased positive affectivity, and increased negative affectivity, based on survey responses at baseline and after the paradigm. Participants also responded to a set of questionnaires assessing social anxiety, threat bias, depressive symptoms, and self-reported ostracism.

Results indicated that compared to included youth, ostracized youth reported greater overall distress during O-Cam. Social anxiety and threat bias did not uniquely predict to greater distress only among the ostracized participants, and did not serve as moderators of distress. However, some support was found for influences of social anxiety and threat bias regardless of whether participants were ostracized. Gender differences were obtained based on some of the measures of distress. Contrary to predictions, everyday self-reported ostracism was unrelated to laboratory ostracism response. Self- reported ostracism was associated with higher social anxiety and depressive symptoms for males and females.

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