The Impact of Integrated Object Representations on Rejection Sensitivity

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Despite robust findings identifying impairments in interpersonal functioning associated with rejection sensitivity (RS), the object representations (OR) of self in relation to others from which such rejection expectancies and anxieties arise have not been evaluated. Our study was the first effort to evaluate the structural aspects of object representations in RS, which may provide a crucial link in understanding why interpersonal distress may translate to rejection expectancies. Participants included 56 ethnically diverse undergraduate students who self-reported interpersonal distress and RS, and were assessed using the Social Cognition and Object Relation Scale. Results showed greater disparities in levels of integration in OR predicted greater RS. Furthermore, a moderation model was supported in which heightened interpersonal distress predicted higher levels of rejection sensitivity only for those with greater disparities in levels of OR integration. Thus, individuals with unstable OR integration may find it difficult to accurately attribute accepting or rejecting dispositions to others in distressing interpersonal contexts.

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