Article

Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 26, Issue 6, pp 811-829

Cognitive Vulnerability to Hopelessness Depression: A Chain Is Only as Strong as Its Weakest Link

  • John R. Z. AbelaAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, McGill University
  • , Sabina SarinAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, McGill University

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Abstract

The hopelessness theory proposes that depressogenic inferential styles about the self, consequences, and causes serve as vulnerability factors to hopelessness depression. Previous research on the diathesis–stress component of the theory has examined each inferential style separately. Doing so, however, is likely to provide an inaccurate test of the theory because individuals who possess only one depressogenic inferential style but who show increases in symptoms following negative events will appear to support the theory in some analyses but to contradict the theory in others. The weakest link hypothesis posits that an individual is as vulnerable to hopelessness depression as her most depressogenic inferential style makes her. Therefore, according to this hypothesis, when testing the theory, researchers should determine each participant's degree of vulnerability using her most depressogenic inferential style. The goal of the current study was to test the diathesis–stress and symptom components of the hopelessness theory in seventh grade children using both the traditional and weakest link approaches. Seventy-nine children completed measures of depressogenic inferential styles and depressive symptoms (Time 1). Ten weeks later (Time 2), they completed measures of depressive symptoms and negative events. Neither depressogenic inferential styles about the self, consequences, nor causes interacted with negative events to predict increases in symptoms of hopelessness depression. In line with hypotheses, however, children's “weakest links” interacted with negative events to predict increases in hopelessness depression symptoms. In addition, in line with the symptom component of the theory, this interaction did not predict increases in nonhopelessness depression symptoms.

hopelessness theory children depression diathesis–stress