The purpose of the proposed research was to investigate the role of perceived overprotection, a negative type of social support exchange, as a risk factor for negative mental health outcomes (depression and anxiety) among adults with visual impairment between the ages of 22 and 64 years. Perceived overprotection is defined as a feeling of being unnecessarily helped or overly restricted by support providers and has been primarily studied in the population of individuals 65 years of age and older. In this age group, perceived overprotection has been found to be associated with higher levels of depression in stroke patients, cancer patients, and healthy, community-dwelling older adults. Overprotection has also been found to be associated with lower levels of well-being and psychosocial adaptation in older adults with age-related vision loss. The goal of this study was to explore the interrelationships among vision loss severity, functional disability, positive social support, perceived overprotection and mental health (depression and anxiety) in adults between the ages of 22 and 64. Based on the theoretical framework of the Learned Helplessness Theory (Seligman, 1992), it was hypothesized that perceived overprotection would be positively related to [a] depression and [b] anxiety, even after controlling for vision loss severity, functional disability, and positive social support.
Participants were 114 adults with visual impairment between the ages of 22 and 64 who had completed the service process. Data for this cross-sectional study were collected through 30-minute telephone interviews. Hierarchical Multiple Regression analyses were conducted to test the two study hypotheses.
As hypothesized, perceived overprotection functioned as a predictor of depressive symptomatology, even after controlling for vision loss severity, functional disability and perceived positive support. Specifically, individuals who were of races other than African-American, who had lower levels of perceived family support, who had lower levels of perceived friend support, and higher levels of perceived overprotection were more likely to report more depressive symptoms. In addition, perceived overprotection functioned as a predictor of anxiety symptoms, even after controlling for vision loss severity, functional disability and perceived positive support. Specifically, individuals who reported a higher number of health problems and higher levels of perceived overprotection were more likely to report more anxiety symptoms. Findings from this research not only add to the conceptual knowledge about social support and chronic impairment, but also will help to identify those who are at risk for mental health problems.
Cimarolli, V. R. (2006). Perceived overprotection and distress in adults with vision impairment. Rehabilitation Psychology, 51, 338-345.
Cimarolli, V. R., & Wang, S., (2006). Social support differences among employed and unemployed adults who are visually impaired. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 100, 545-556.
Wang, S., & Cimarolli, V. R. (2006, May). Perceived overprotection as a risk factor for mental health problems. Poster presented at the 18th Annual Convention of the Association for Psychological Science, New York, NY.
Investigators: Verena Cimarolli, Principal Investigator
Amy Horowitz, DSW/PhD, Consultant
Mark Brennan, PhD, Statistical Consultant
Hillary Gauthier, MPS, Research Assistant
Funded by: National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Project Period: 7/04 - 6/05