Rejection Sensitivity RS-Adult questionnaire (A-RSQ)

Author of Tool: 

Berenson, K. R., Gyurak, A., Downey, G., Ayduk, O., Mogg, K., Bradley, B., & Pine, D.

Key references: 

Berenson, K. R., Gyurak, A., Downey, G., Ayduk, O., Mogg, K., Bradley, B., & Pine, D. (2009). Rejection sensitivity and disruption of attention by social threat cues. Journal of Research in Personality, 43, 1064–1072.

Primary use / Purpose: 

A measure of sensitivity to actual or perceived rejection


Extreme sensitivity to rejection and characteristic patterns of reacting to the possibility of rejection in daily life are part of the defining criteria for several psychiatric diagnoses, including avoidant personality disorder/social phobia and borderline personality disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). In recognition of the central role of sensitivity to rejection in seriously maladaptive interpersonal patterns and in the resulting distress, much scholarship from the early psychoanalysts to the present has grappled with understanding how individuals with this vulnerability deal with the threat of rejection. In recent years,
evidence that effective deployment of attentional resources underlies adaptive coping with challenging circumstances has motivated efforts to establish whether various psychological conditions and vulnerabilities are associated with general and specific forms of ineffective attention deployment in the face of threat (Mathews & MacLeod, 2005). The Rejection Sensitivity RS-Adult questionnaire (A-RSQ) measures the phenomenon defined in  social-cognitive terms – as the disposition to anxiously expect, readily perceive, and intensely react to rejection.


The A-RSQ was completed by 685 adults in an internet survey. Scores (M = 8.6, SD= 3.6, range = 1.0–24.2, a = .70) did not systematically vary with gender or age (range 18–78, M = 25.6 years), but were inversely associated with years of education (r = .15; p < .001). Controlling for education, the A-RSQ showed expected correlations (all p < .001) with related constructs measured in a subsample of survey respondents (n = 245), including: neuroticism (John, Donahue, & Kentle, 1991, r = .32); social avoidance/distress (Watson & Friend, 1969, r = .34); self-esteem (Rosenberg, 1965, r = .46); attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance (Fraley, Waller, & Brennan, 2000; r = .48 and r = .33, respectively); and interpersonal sensitivity and depression (Derogatis, Lipman, & Covi, 1973,r = .45 and r = .37, respectively). As evidence for its discriminant validity, the A-RSQ remained associated with attachment anxiety (r = .21, p < .001) and interpersonal sensitivity (r = .18, p < .01) when controlling for the rest of these constructs. Further support for the validity of the A-RSQ derives from its ability to reflect the individual differences in RS associated with serious forms of psychopathology in which rejection concerns are prominent. In an ongoing study of adults who met diagnostic criteria for borderline and/or avoidant personality disorders (n = 80), the mean A-RSQ scores for those diagnosed with either one of the disorders fell above the 90th percentile for our unselected internet sample, whereas the mean A-RSQ scores for those diagnosed with both disorders fell above the 99th percentile (Downey, Berenson, & Rafaeli, 2009). Hence, the A-RSQ captures meaningful differences in RS across diverse groups of adults.



Other Information: 

Scoring: Calculate a score of rejection sensitivity for each situation by multiplying the level of rejection concern (the response to question a) by the reverse of the level of acceptance expectancy (the response to question b). The formula is: rejection sensitivity = (rejection) * (7-acceptance expectancy) Take the mean of the resulting 9 scores to obtain the overall rejection sensitivity score.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI):