Towards a Theory of Interpersonal Isolation: Adding Existential Isolation to the Mix
AuthorHelm, Peter Jameson
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction, presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis dissertation argues that in addition to loneliness and social isolation, research examining facets of interpersonal isolation should also consider existential isolation (EI; Yalom, 1980). Interpersonal isolation refers to any between-person separation. Loneliness is the distressing feeling accompanied by the subjective evaluation that there is a discrepancy between one’s desired and one’s actual social relationships (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2014). Social isolation is the objective condition of having few contacts with family and community (Pressman et al., 2005). EI is the subjective feeling that others cannot understand one’s perspective. I argue social isolation constitutes an objective component of interpersonal isolation while loneliness and EI constitute subjective components. Across three studies I argue for the uniqueness of EI as a construct and compare its relative effects to loneliness (Studies 1-3) and social isolation (Study 2). In Study 1, I find EI and loneliness to both independently and interact to predict greater depression and suicide ideation. Study 2 utilizes a longitudinal design and compares the relative effects of each type of isolation on a variety of outcomes across a semester. While the initial hypotheses in Study 2 did not receive much empirical support, exploratory analyses revealed that changes in EI are particularly important predictors of measures of healthy behaviors and wellbeing over the course of a semester. Study 3 compared the relative behavioral effects of EI and loneliness after a rejection experience. Study 3 found no support for the hypotheses. Taken together, these studies support the utility of considering EI as a facet of interpersonal isolation and demonstrate that EI can have predictive power beyond more commonly studied forms of interpersonal isolation.
Degree ProgramGraduate College