Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Harry Freeman


Close relationships are essential to the mental health and adaptation of adults. The study of close relationships and mental health has concentrated on dyadic interactions in different types of relationships, such as parents, best friends, and romantic partners. Much less attention has focused on how a network of close relationships informs mental health. This study concentrated on a network of five close relationships in relation to adult mental health outcomes. Four network metrics, which are composition (who), strength (number of attachment figures), morphology (hierarchical or nonhierarchical), and physical proximity were examined as predictors of adult mental health outcomes (i.e., depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation). Each network metric was investigated based on different age groups and attachment quality as potential moderating factors to explore whether the network structures of close relationships can be considered as a possible factor for understanding adult mental health. Participants included 930 adults (57% female) aged from 24 to 80, who first completed the Web-based Hierarchical Mapping Technique (WHMT), a diagrammatic measure of attachment network composition, strength, morphology, and physical distance. After completing the WHMT, the participants also completed a Qualtrics survey that included extensive questions on their demographics, mental health scales, and attachment relationships. Furthermore, the participants completed the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), General Anxiety Disorder (GAD-7), and the Suicide Behaviors Questionnaire-Revised (SBQ-R) to assess depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. They also completed Experiences of Close Relationships-Revised-General Short Form (ECR-R-GSF) to examine attachment quality. Multivariate Analysis of Covariance (MANCOVA) and Hierarchical Multiple Regression (HMR) were employed to explore how each network indicator was related to differences in the three mental health outcomes. The findings provided some confirmation that choosing different primary attachment figures were not significant to mental health outcomes in adult attachment networks. Having more attachment figure was associated with positive mental health outcomes. Contrary to study hypothesis, participants with non-hierarchical networks reported better mental health outcomes. Additionally, the amount of physical distance from close relationships did not appear to be a good predictor of mental health.

Subject Categories

Developmental Psychology | Educational Psychology


attachment network structures, Web-based Hierarchical Mapping Technique

Number of Pages



University of South Dakota



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