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The Socioemotional Costs and Benefits of Social-Evaluative Concerns: Do Girls Care Too Much?


  • We would like to thank the students, teachers, and principals of the participating schools for their contributions to this study. We are grateful for the statistical assistance provided by Richard Lucas, and for the helpful comments provided by Bonnie Leadbeater, Eva Pomerantz, and Amanda Rose. We also appreciate the assistance with data collection and project management provided by Melissa Caldwell, Alyssa Clark, Alison Dupre, Tamara Gathright, Tali Klima, Kathryn Kurlakowsky, Sharon Lambert, and Lori Osborne. This research was supported by a University of Illinois Research Board Beckman Award, a William T. Grant Foundation Faculty Scholars Award, and National Institutes of Mental Health Grant MH56327 awarded to Karen D. Rudolph.

may be addressed to Karen D. Rudolph, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois, 603 E. Daniel St., Champaign, IL 61820, phone: 217-333-8624, fax: 217-244-5876, e-mail:


Abstract This research investigated the hypothesis that girls' heightened concerns about social evaluation contribute to sex differences in depression and interpersonal competence during early adolescence. A short-term longitudinal study was conducted with 474 adolescents to examine the consequences of heightened social-evaluative concerns. Adolescents reported on their levels of social-evaluative concerns and depressive symptoms. Teachers provided ratings of adolescents' competence with peers (displays of prosocial and aggressive behavior). As anticipated, girls demonstrated higher levels of social-evaluative concerns, depressive symptoms, and interpersonal competence than did boys. Moreover, path analysis confirmed that heightened social-evaluative concerns were associated both concurrently and over time with higher levels of depression, as well as with higher levels of interpersonal competence. Notably, social-evaluative concerns accounted fully for the sex difference in depression and partially for the sex difference in interpersonal competence. These findings highlight the need to consider both the socioemotional costs and benefits of sex-linked relational orientations.