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23. The contrasting associations between emotional closeness and psychological distress
Close relationships can serve an important role in facilitating healthy emotion regulation strategies. Previous work suggests that the social regulation of emotion might have more positive outcomes when one is engaging with a close other, as opposed to with a stranger. But people vary in their desire for emotionally close contact, and this can influence the emotional benefit of social interactions. A sample of adults aged 18-25 (n = 72; 61.1% female; 33.3% with remitted depression) completed multiple self-report measures of different facets of emotional closeness (i.e., desire to express emotional closeness, desire to receive emotional closeness, comfort in developing closeness in relationships, and presence of emotional support) and psychological distress (i.e., depressive symptoms, worry symptoms, and fear of negative evaluation). We conducted a recursive path analysis model to investigate emotional closeness as a predictor of psychological distress. Results of the path analysis showed that greater comfort in developing closeness predicted less fear of negative evaluation and worry symptoms. Although greater desire to express emotional closeness predicted less fear of negative evaluation, greater desire to receive emotional closeness predicted greater fear of negative evaluation and worry symptoms. Results suggest that a desire to experience emotional closeness can play a complex role in predicting psychological distress.