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Cognitive Vulnerability to Depression and Lifetime History of Axis I Psychopathology: A Comparison of Negative Cognitive Styles (CSQ) and Dysfunctional Attitudes (DAS)

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The goal of this study was to "unpack" the "generic" cognitive vulnerability employed in the retrospective behavioral high-risk design of Alloy and colleagues (2000), one of the major publications emanating from the Cognitive Vulnerability to Depression (CAD) Project to date. To this end, we used a retrospective behavioral high-risk design with a new sample of unselected undergraduates and examined the unique association between lifetime history of clinically significant depression as well as other Axis I disorders (e.g., anxiety disorders, substance abuse disorders) and both dysfunctional attitudes (DAS, featured in Beck's theory) and negative cognitive styles (CSQ, featured in hopelessness theory). We present results supporting the cognitive vulnerability factor featured in the hopelessness theory and the construct validity of the CSQ. Negative cognitive styles were more strongly and consistently associated with lifetime history of Research Diagnostic Criteria (RDC) major depression and hopelessness depression than were dysfunctional attitudes. These results suggest that negative cognitive styles, as assessed by the CSQ, were a potent component of the "generic" cognitive vulnerability effect in Alloy and associates' (2000) retrospective behavioral high-risk design. Interestingly, negative cognitive styles also were significantly associated with a participant having had a past RDC anxiety diagnosis. Thus, consistent with past research, our results suggest that negative cognitive styles and dysfunctional attitudes are distinct constructs as measured by the CSQ and DAS, respectively. Of further interest, gender differences in depression were obtained with college women in our study exhibiting significantly greater lifetime history of RDC major depression than college men.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2003

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