Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

MA in Clinical Psychology



First Advisor

William Chaplin

Second Advisor

Tamara Del Vecchio


In this study, we examine the pattern of mental health symptoms across adult development using data from a community-based clinic in Queens, NY. Age was represented by three qualitative stages, “early adulthood,” “middle adulthood,” and “late adulthood.” Early adulthood has been characterized as a period of heightened emotional instability, with less clear long-term commitments to romantic relationships, career paths, work, and living arrangements. Middle adulthood has been characterized as a more emotionally stable period in terms of relations with friends and family and social roles. Finally, late adults, although also viewed as more emotionally regulated, may again experience greater interpersonal instability as a result of the loss of spouses. In addition, this group will be at the end of their work careers (Johnson et al., 2020). This characterization of the development stages leads to different hypotheses about the types of present and persistent symptoms that will be most frequent at the different stages. For early adults, ages 18 to 29, we expect the highest level of symptoms associated with social roles and interpersonal relationships because they experience the most challenges (e.g., forming careers, developing relationships, leaving home). During middle adulthood, ages 30 to 59, we expect the lowest levels of Interpersonal Relationship symptoms due to having more stable relationships and experiences working through challenges. Finally, in late adults over 60, we expect a further reduction in symptoms associated with social roles because work and school are no longer challenges in their lives. We tested these hypotheses in 407 adults (248 women, 125 men, 34 not reported) who were beginning psychotherapy using the General Symptoms (GS), Social Role Symptoms (SR), and Interpersonal Relationship Symptoms (IR) subscales from the Outcomes Questionnaire (OQ-45). There were 203 emerging adults (E), 183 middle adults (M), and 21 late adults (O) in our sample. We used Bayesian ANOVAs followed by specific group comparisons as our analytic approach. Results: For General Symptoms, we found a general decrease across the three stages (mean symptoms = 14.5, 13.4, and 12.3 for the Early, Middle, and Late groups, respectively). Although consistent with our hypotheses, these results provided equivocal evidence for no differences between groups (BF01 = 1.8). For Social Role Symptoms, the mean symptoms were 4.2, 3.9, and 2.7, respectively, and these results provided strong support for group difference (BF10 = 12.9.). Finally, for Interpersonal Relations Symptoms, we found no support for our hypothesis as the means were equivalent across groups (2.5) and BF01 = 11.1, which shows strong support for the model of no difference. Conclusion: Our results were partially there was a modest decrease in general emotional distress across the 3 age groups. For social roles, the decrease was pronounced with Late Adults reporting the fewest symptoms. However, for interpersonal relationships, there was surprisingly no evidence for differences. Indeed, the null model received strong support, demonstrating that relationship symptoms are constant across the lifespan.