How Cognitive Development May Impact Cognitive Models of Depression in Youth
Weitlauf, Amy Sue
Attributional theories of depression (Abramson, Seligman, & Teasdale, 1978; Abramson, Metalsky, & Alloy, 1989) are often applied to children. However, these theories do not consider how children’s understanding of causal relations may differ from adults’. These differences may impact the applicability of attributional theories to young populations. Children ages 8-16 years (n = 94) and their parents were recruited to examine how cognitive developmental differences may impact the relations between attributional style (AS), negative life events (NLE), and depression. This project implemented and validated a new measure, the Peabody Causal Attribution Test (PCAT), designed to assess cognitive prerequisites for an adult-like AS. The PCAT showed significant positive relations to measures of AS and other measures of cognitive development, but not age. Evidence of a diathesis-stress interaction emerged such that children with low PCAT scores, high NLE and a depressogenic AS were more likely to endorse depressive symptoms than children with high PCAT scores. Implications for theory are discussed.