Date of Award

January 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

John Paul Legerski


Depression has a number of deleterious effects on the interpersonal functioning of adolescents and emerging adults. The interpersonal theory of depression posits that depression is developed and maintained by both the behaviors of the individual and the responses of others to the individual. Adolescents and emerging adults are spending a significant amount of time interacting on social networking sites, such as Facebook, yet few studies have looked at the interpersonal behavior of depressed youth in the context of the interpersonal theory of depression. This study examined the interpersonal behavior of 328 emerging adult college students on Facebook using questionnaires related to depressive symptoms, self-esteem, interaction styles, and Facebook self-disclosure behaviors. A sub-sample of participants (N = 171) provided access to their online profiles, allowing examination of their emotional self-disclosures via the Facebook status update function and the subsequent responses to those disclosures by their friends over a period of six months. Participants were categorized into depressed and non-depressed groups. Results indicate that participants in the depressed group expressed more negative emotion on Facebook and expressed negative emotions for different reasons than participants in the non-depressed group. Over time, positive and negative disclosures made by participants in the depressed group received significantly fewer responses from their Facebook friends, although the difference was small. These results provide mixed support for the interpersonal theory of depression in the context of social media stressing the importance of continued research on the communication and disclosure behaviors of individuals with depression in this context.