Relationship of family variables, cognitive triad, and depressive symptoms in pre- and early adolescent girls
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Previous research demonstrates a marked increase in the occurrence of depression during adolescence, particularly for females. Theorists contend that this phenomenon is associated with the development of beliefs about the self, world, and future (known as the cognitive triad), which constitutes a potential cognitive vulnerability to depression. Research has also demonstrated that family characteristics, such as cohesion, communication, conflict, social/recreational activity, parental messages, parental modeling of beliefs, and maternal depression are all related to depression and the development of depressive cognitions. The purpose of the current study was to build upon previous literature on family and cognitive correlates of depression in youth and analyze specific cognitive-interpersonal pathways to depression for girls transitioning from childhood to adolescence. 165 girls ranging in age from 8 to 14 participated in the study, along with their mothers. Participants completed self-report measures of family environment, beliefs about the self, world, and future, and perceived parental messages regarding the cognitive triad. Mothers completed a self-report measure of psychopathology and an instrument assessing their beliefs about the self, world, and future. Participants also completed a diagnostic interview, which served as the primary measure of depressive symptoms. As found in similar studies and consistent with Beck's theory of depression, daughter's reports of cognitive triad predicted the severity of her depressive symptoms. Moreover, the cognitive triad was found to be the mediating variable in the model; family variables affected daughter's beliefs, which then affected depressive symptomology. Specifically, girls who endorsed higher family conflict, lower social/recreational activity, and more negative parental messages reported more negative cognitive styles and subsequently higher levels of depression. Further results indicated that daughter's beliefs about the self and parent's messages about the future are particularly important factors in this model of depression. Contrary to what was expected, mother's reports of depression and cognitive triad did not predict daughter's cognitive triad or depressive symptoms. Implications of these results and recommendations for future research are provided.