Depression in youth: exploring the relationship among maternal depressive symptomatology, perceived critical maternal messages, and the cognitive triad
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Although numerous studies have empirically documented the risks to the children of depressed mothers, few studies have attempted to investigate the possible mechanisms that may be responsible for these risks. Cognitive theories of depression suggest that depressogenic cognitions have their roots in early learning experiences within the family. Empirical evidence has accumulated that both depressed mothers and the parents of depressed children tend to be more critical of their children and more negative in their interactions with them. Recent studies even indicate that highly critical family communication patterns are associated with a childís vulnerability to depression. Utilizing Beck's cognitive theory of depression, this dissertation focuses on the relationship between variables in a hypothetical model which link mother's severity of depressive symptomatology, critical maternal messages as perceived by the child, the child's cognitive triad (view of self, world, and future), and the child's severity of depression. Drawn from a larger research study investigating childhood emotional and behavioral disorders, the participants were 38 adolescents who were receiving services in a psychiatric residential treatment center and their mothers. The adolescents completed a clinical interview to assess depression severity and two self-report measures to assess their perceptions of maternal messages as well as their own views of self, world, and future (cognitive triad). The mothers in the study completed a self-report measure on their own psychiatric functioning. Four mediational hypotheses were tested to explore the relationships between variables in the hypothesized model summarized above. Results did not support any of the mediational hypotheses. Consistent with Beckís cognitive theory of depression, a more negative view of self, world, and future was predictive of a greater severity level of depression in adolescents. Theoretical and clinical implications are discussed, as well as the studyís limitations and suggestions for future research.