, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 251-270

Dysfunctional attitudes and psychosocial stress: The differential prediction of future psychological symptomatology

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The interactive effects of dysfunctional attitudes, stressful life events, and social support on symptoms of depression and general psychological distress were investigated in the present study. Self-report measures of these five constructs were administered to 57 female undergraduates twice, with 3 months between testing sessions. Whereas the interactions of dysfunctional attitudes with stressful life events and with social support were expected to predict the subsequent severity of symptoms of depression, it was hypothesized that these two-way interactions would not predict symptoms of general psychological distress. These predictions were confirmed, with the exception that the interaction between dysfunctional attitudes and stressful life events was not a significant predictor of depressive symptoms. Specifically, it was found that the combination of a high number of dysfunctional attitudes measured at Time 1 with a low level of social support measured at Time 2 was positively related to the level of depressive symptoms assessed at Time 2. These results suggest that dysfunctional attitudes moderate the relationship between stress and mild depressive symptomatology. The implications of these findings for an interactional model of depression, as well as for directions for future research, are discussed.

Preparation of this article was facilitated by a Medical Research Council of Canada Studentship to the first author, and by Grant MA-8574 from the Medical Research Council of Canada to the second author.