The interpersonal context of depression and violent behavior: A social psychological interpretation

Berg, M.T.; Rogers, E.M.; Liu, W.; Mumford, E.A.; Taylor, B.G.


Depression is a particularly prevalent form of psychopathology affecting millions of individuals worldwide. It is associated with a variety of adverse social and behavioral outcomes. Numerous observational studies have found that depressed individuals have significantly elevated rates of interpersonal violence. As of now, the social mechanisms that explain the association between depression and violence remain understudied and not well understood. Drawing on the aggression and social psychology literatures, we argue that depressed actors suffer skills deficits and exhibit hostile communication styles that provoke grievances and disputes. We suggest that, because of these interpersonal tendencies, depression increases involvement in verbal disputes, and that frequent participation in verbal disputes foments social contexts where interpersonal violence is more common. Findings from a series of regression models based on a nationally representative sample of 2171 respondents offer support for our assumptions. The study suggests a consideration of interpersonal dynamics, particularly verbal disputes, might unlock clues about the association between depression and violence involvement.