A developmentally-sensitive evaluation of two cognitive models of depression in childhood and early adolescence
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This study used mediation analysis to evaluate Beck’s model and Abramson’s model in a sample of 198 girls, in the 4th through 7th grades. Data from diagnostic interviews were used to create a continuous measure of depressive symptoms. Self-report measures, including the Life Events Checklist, the Cognitive Triad Inventory for Children, and the Children’s Cognitive Style Questionnaire, were used to assess perceptions of negative life events, Beck’s cognitive triad, and Abramson’s cognitive inferential style, respectively. Results of separate mediation analyses supported both Beck’s and Abramson’s cognitive theories of depression in children. There was a significant indirect effect of life events through Beck’s cognitive triad on symptoms of depression. Similarly, there was a significant indirect effect of life events through Abramson’s negative cognitive inferential style on depressive symptoms. Higher depressive symptoms were associated with a more depressotypic cognitive triad, a more depressotypic cognitive inferential style, and a greater number and greater magnitude of negative life events. Developmentally-sensitive analyses using the weakest link approach and moderated mediation (conditional process) analysis found support for both Beck’s and Abramson’s models. However, there was also some support for the developmental hypothesis that in younger children negative life events can have a direct effect on symptoms of depression; for the 4th graders in this study, direct effects and indirect effects were significant. However, for the 5th, 6th, and 7th graders indirect effects were significant, but direct effects ceased to be significant. Implications and suggestions for future research are provided.