Background: Adolescence is a period of both great social change, and of vulnerability to psychiatric distress. However, little is known about the associations between early psychopathology and social interactions at the fundamental level of daily life. To better understand the social correlates of subclinical psychopathology in adolescence, we assessed associations between general psychopathology and the quantity and quality of daily-life social interactions. Methods: During a six-day experience sampling period, adolescent and young adult participants in Study 1 (n = 663) and Study 2 (n = 1027) reported the quantity and quality of their everyday social interactions. General psychopathology was assessed using the Symptom Checklist-90 and Brief Symptom Inventory-53. The relationship between psychopathology and each outcome variable was tested in separate multilevel linear and logistic regression models. Results: General psychopathology was associated with social interaction quality. Associations between psychopathology and the number of social interactions were less apparent: In Study 1, participants with more psychopathology were not more alone, whereas Study 2 participants with higher levels of psychopathology were alone more. Limitations: Limitations include no separate investigation of distinct types of psychopathology, and relatively low compliance to the experience sampling in Study 2. Conclusions: Consistent associations between subclinical psychopathology and the quality of social interactions support the fundamentally social nature of early psychopathology. Moreover, negative experiences of social interactions may be more valuable markers of early psychopathology than a reduced quantity of social behaviors. Conceptualizations of daily-life social functioning, and prevention/intervention efforts would benefit from a greater consideration of the quality of everyday social experiences.
- Ecological momentary assessment
- Experience sampling
- Social functioning
- Social interaction