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Depression in child psychiatric inpatients: Cognitive and attributional patterns

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Cognitive and learned helplessness models of depression view maladaptive cognitive and attributional patterns as core features of depressive disorders. This study examined cognitive and attributional patterns in depressed children, nondepressed children, and a subgroup of remitting depressives who had histories of depression but were not reporting depressive symptoms when evaluated during the first 2 weeks of hospitalization. When compared with nondepressed controls, depressed children reported significantly more hopelessness, more negative self-perceptions, and negative self-perceptions across a wider variety of domains, and they displayed more dysfunctional attributional styles. While 55% of depressed children displayed pervasive maladaptive cognitive patterns, the other 45% of depressed children scored more similarly to nondepressed children, suggesting that childhood depressive disorders may be heterogeneous with respect to cognitive patterns. Contrary to the notion of traitlike depressive cognitive and attributional patterns that persist after the remission of depressive episodes, children with remitting depressions scored similarly to nondepressed children.

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Correspondence to Joan Rosenbaum Asarnow.

Additional information

Partial support for this project was provided by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as part of their Network on Risk and Protective Factors in the Major Mental Disorders. I wish to thank Donald Guthrie for providing statistical consultation, Gwen Gordon for her computer assistance, and Niels Mueller and Jean Keller for their help with data collection.

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Asarnow, J.R., Bates, S. Depression in child psychiatric inpatients: Cognitive and attributional patterns. J Abnorm Child Psychol 16, 601–615 (1988). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00913472

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  • Depressive Symptom
  • Depressive Disorder
  • Depressive Episode
  • Core Feature
  • Psychiatric Inpatient