Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 26, Issue 5, pp 563-579

First online:

Attributional Style and Self-Esteem in Vulnerability to Adolescent Depressive Symptoms Following Life Stress: A 14-Week Prospective Study

  • Diana SouthallAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, The University at Buffalo
  • , John E. RobertsAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, The University at Buffalo

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This study tested G. I. Metalsky, T. E. Joiner, T. Hardin, and L. Abramson's (1993) integrated model of attributional style, self-esteem, and life stress in vulnerability to depressive symptoms among adolescents (N = 115) using a 14-week prospective design. This model posits that individuals with both a negative attributional style and low self-esteem are particularly sensitive to developing depressive symptoms subsequent to life stress. Results of hierarchical multiple regression analyses were consistent with this hypothesis for initially asymptomatic participants, but not for those who were already experiencing mild levels of symptoms at the start of the study. Specifically, among initially asymptomatic participants, the three-way interaction between attributional style, self-esteem, and life stress predicted changes in depressive symptoms; initially asymptomatic participants who had a negative attributional style, low self-esteem, and high life stress showed the greatest increase in depressive symptoms. These findings suggest that self-esteem and attributional style play a role in vulnerability to the onset of depressive symptoms, though different pathways seem to be involved in determining the course of already existing symptoms.

depressive symptoms adolescence self-esteem attributional style life stress