, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 401-412

Testing the Causal Mediation Component of Beck's Theory of Depression: Evidence for Specific Mediation

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Abstract

Psychopathology researchers are increasinglyconcerned with the diagnostic and symptom specificity oftheir findings, yet the specificity of the mechanismsthrough which hypothesized vulnerability factors culminate in symptoms has received littleattention. The present study examines this issue withregard to Beck's theory of depression. Using a midtermmethodology, 119 undergraduates completed questionnaires on dysfunctional attitudes, depressive andanxious cognitions, and depressive symptoms before andafter their midterm examinations. Consistent withprediction, students who were high in dysfunctionalattitudes experienced increases in depressive symptoms,but only if they also received a low midterm exam grade.Students high in dysfunctional attitudes who receivedhigh grades did not experience symptom increases, similar to students low in dysfunctionalattitudes. Quite importantly, the DysfunctionalAttitudes X Midterm Outcome interaction contributed todepressive symptoms through the operation of depressivecognitions, but not through the operation of anxiouscognitions.