Self Evaluation and Social Support (SESS) measure

The SESS interview was designed to measure psychological and social vulnerability. It was tested in the prospective Islington study prior to depression occurring. In the SESS interview various contemporary assessments were made of the quality of the marital relationship, the parenting role, work and housework role and external arena as well as support from Very Close others. Reliable use of the measure occurred after training with inter-rater reliability on most scales over 0.80. Regular rating meetings were held to ensure reliability of scoring.

Two vulnerability indices were determined in the analysis as best predictors of subsequent onset of major depression involving negative relationships and negative evaluation of self.

The 'Negative Elements in Close Relationships (NECR)' index involved high negative interaction with children (involving discord, criticism, tension), similar high negative interaction for women living with a partner and the absence of any close confidant for a single woman.

Negative Evaluation of Self was an index based on three scales: negative evaluation of personal attributes (such as attractiveness or intelligence), negative evaluation of competence in roles (for example as a mother or friend) or self-rejection (a more global assessment of self-dislike). These three scales were highly correlated but a high rating on any one would count as 'negative evaluation of self' (NES).

The SESS has led to the development of additional measures. The Attachment Style Interview utilises both the marital and support section, but this in addition to attitudinal scales of avoidance or anxious attachment in relationships (see ASI). It has also led to the development of the Parenting interview which assesses both competence in parenting role from the SESS but also retrospective measures of pregnancy experience and more detailed parenting measures of care and control of children.

The Vulnerability to Depression Questionnaire (VDQ) is a self-report instrument validated against the SESS interview to measure the vulnerability indices of negative elements in close relationships and negative evaluation of self. It shows high reliability and is predictive of depression onset.


Key references

O'Connor, P., & Brown, G. W. (1984). Supportive relationships: fact or fancy? Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 1, 159-175.

Brown, G. W., Andrews, B., Bifulco, A. T., & Veiel, H. O. (1990). Self esteem and depression: I. Measurement issues and prediction of onset. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 25, 200-209.

Brown, G. W., Bifulco, A. T., Veiel, H. O., & Andrews, B. (1990). Self-esteem and depression: II. Social correlates of self-esteem. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 25, 225-234.



Five hundred people recall their life story… all kept  in one collection


Memories of childhood and of adult life: adversity, support relationships ...

Reports of coping style, self esteem,
relating styles,
psychological disorders ...