The Role of Involvement in Romantic Relationships and Relational Self-Concept in Explaining Youth Mental Health Problems: A Pilot Study


  • Ana Krnić Osnovna škola Ivana Gundulića, Zagreb, Hrvatska
  • Lucija Šutić Edukacijsko-rehabilitacijski fakultet Sveučilišta u Zagrebu, Zagreb, Hrvatska
  • Miranda Novak Edukacijsko-rehabilitacijski fakultet Sveučilišta u Zagrebu, Zagreb, Hrvatska


youth, romantic relationships, mental health, relational-esteem, relational-depression, relational-preoccupation


The importance of romantic relationships in adolescence and early adulthood is unquestionable. Turbulent events on a romantic plan can manifest in the form of depressive symptoms. On the other hand, certain mental health problems undoubtedly affect the romantic competence of adolescents. The model of individual differences suggests that this connection is moderated by the individual characteristics of the person, including relational aspects of self-esteem. Given that the research of these constructs is still insufficiently represented in Croatian scientific circles, the main aim of the current pilot study was to examine whether relationship status and the relational aspects of the self predict mental health of Croatian youth. The study was conducted in Croatia in spring 2021. 194 adolescents and young adults, whose mean age was 19 years, participated in the online survey. 78% of our sample were women and 62% of our participants stated that they are in a romantic relationship. In addition to answering demographic questions and the question regarding romantic involvement, participants completed the DASS-21 questionnaire and the Relational Assessment Questionnaire. To test our hypothesis, a hierarchical regression analysis was conducted. The results were interpreted based on the sociometer theory, and show that greater relational depression in youth predicts the severity of symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. Furthermore, involvement in romantic relationships has a significant moderating role, meaning that those young people who are in a relationship have more significant mental health problems when their relational self-esteem is low, but also when they report greater relational depression. The findings provide guidelines for future research, but also point to the possibility of promoting mental health by strengthening interpersonal skills in adolescence.