PhD in Nursing Science Program

Cara S. Calloway

Cognitive Vulnerabilities, Negative Life Events and Depressive Symptoms in Young Adolescents


Dissertation under the direction of Professor Lynda L. LaMontagne


In this dissertation study, cognitive vulnerability, characterized by negative patterns of thinking, was shown to be positively correlated with the prevalence and number of negative life events and increased depressive symptoms in young adolescents. The three cognitive vulnerabilities found to be correlated with increased depressive symptoms were 1) dysfunctional attitudes (negative biases about self or events), 2) negative inferential style (inferences about cause, consequence, and one's ability to influence the outcome of an event), and 3) ruminative response style (attention is fixated on one's emotional state). The relationships between cognitive vulnerability, negative life events, and number of depressive symptoms were not significantly different by age, gender, or ethnicity. However, adolescents from lower socioeconomic backgrounds reported significantly more dysfunctional attitudes and more negative life events within the family. This study provides important information about the unique contribution of cognitive vulnerabilities to prevalence and number of depressive symptoms in young adolescents. This knowledge is needed to increase awareness that screening and preventative efforts need to be initiated early before adolescents develop persistent negative patterns of thinking and multiple depressive symptoms.