A Longitudinal Investigation of Cognitive Self-schemas across Adolescent Development

  • Brae Anne McArthur
  • Taylor A. Burke
  • Samantha L. Connolly
  • Thomas M. Olino
  • Margaret N. Lumley
  • Lyn Y. Abramson
  • Lauren B. Alloy
Empirical Research


Research in developmental psychology highlights youth’s self-schemas as one possible pathway to improve adolescents’ functioning and promote positive developmental outcomes. Despite this, the trajectory of positive and negative self-schemas is relatively understudied. This study addresses this limitation by empirically examining the trajectory of self-schemas in a community sample of 623 youth (M = 13.04 years; 54% female; 49% African American, 4% Biracial, 47% European American) who were followed over a seven-year period. Caregivers completed measures of parenting practices, maternal rumination and negative inferential style, and adolescents completed a computerized behavioral task assessing self-schemas (i.e., mental frameworks that guide attention, interpretation, and memory of one’s experiences). Multilevel growth curve modeling results demonstrated a quadratic slope for negative self-schemas and no mean-level change for positive self-schemas. These trajectories did not vary by gender or racial group. However, parenting factors differentially influenced the trajectories. Specifically, higher levels of parental involvement at baseline, or an active interest and engagement in a child’s experiences and activities, related to lower levels of negative self-schemas during adolescence. Additionally, higher levels of parental rumination and parental negative control at baseline related to lower levels of youth positive self-schemas at baseline. These findings contribute to models of youth cognitive development.


Cognitive Self-Schemas Adolescence Longitudinal Self-referent Encoding 


Authors’ Contributions

B.M. conceived of the study, participated in the design and interpretation of the data, data analysis, and drafted the manuscript; T.A.B. participated in the design and interpretation of the data, data analysis, and drafted the manuscript; S.L.C. participated in the coordination of the study data and assisted with drafting the manuscript; T.M.O. participated in the design of the data analysis plan, assisted with statistical analyses, and performed a critical review of the manuscript; M.N.L. participated in the interpretation of the data and performed a critical review of the manuscript; L.Y.A. conceived of the larger study and performed a critical review of the manuscript; L.B.A. conceived of the larger study, participated in its design and coordination, and performed a critical review of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


This research was supported by National Institute of Mental Health Grants MH79369 and MH101168 to Lauren B. Alloy. Brae Anne McArthur was supported by a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Taylor A. Burke was supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Student Research Fellowship. Samantha Connolly was supported by National Institute of Mental Health NRSA F31 Grant 1F31MH106181.

Data Sharing and Declaration

This manuscript's data will not be deposited.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. Adams, S. K., Kuhn, J., & Rhodes, J. (2006). Self-esteem changes in the middle school years: A study of ethnic and gender groups. Research in Middle Level Education Online, 29(6), 1–9. Scholar
  2. Alloy, L. B., Abramson, L. Y., Hogan, M. E., Whitehouse, W. G., Rose, D. T., & Robinson, M. S., et al. (2000). The Temple-Wisconsin Cognitive Vulnerability to Depression Project: lifetime history of axis I psychopathology in individuals at high and low cognitive risk for depression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 109(3), 403 Scholar
  3. Alloy, L. B., Abramson, L. Y., Tashman, N., Berrebbi, D. S., Hogan, M. E., Whitehouse, W. G., Crossfield, A. G., & Morocco, A. (2001). Developmental origins of cognitive vulnerability to depression: Parenting, cognitive, and inferential feedback styles of the parents of individuals at high and low cognitive risk for depression. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 25, 397–423. Scholar
  4. Alloy, L. B., Black, S. K., Young, M. E., Goldstein, K. E., Shapero, B. G., Stange, J. P., Boccia, A. S., Matt, L. M., Boland, E. M., Moore, L. C., & Abramson, L. Y. (2012). Cognitive vulnerabilities and depression versus other psychopathology symptoms and diagnoses in early adolescence. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 41, 539–560. Scholar
  5. Beck, A. T. (1967). Depression. New York, NY: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  6. Buist, K. L. (2016). Attachment DuringAdolescence. In R. Levesque (eds), Encyclopedia of Adolescence. Cham: Springer. 10.1007/978-3-319-32132-5.Google Scholar
  7. Burke, T. A., Connolly, S. L., Hamilton, J. L., Stange, J. P., Abramson, L. Y., & Alloy, L. B. (2016). Cognitive risk and protective factors for suicidal ideation: A two year longitudinal study in adolescence. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 44(6), 1145–1160. Scholar
  8. Dainer-Best, J., Lee, H. Y., Shumake, J. D., Yeager, D. S., & Beevers, C. G. (2018). Determining optimal parameters of the self-referent encoding task: A large-scale examination of self referent cognition and depression. Psychological Assessment, 30(11), 1527–1540. Scholar
  9. Derry, P. A., & Kuiper, N. A. (1981). Schematic processing and self-reference in clinical depression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 90(4), 286–297. Scholar
  10. Dozois, D. J. A. (2007). Stability of negative self-structures: A longitudinal comparison of depressed, remitted, and nonpsychiatric controls. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 63(4), 319–338. Scholar
  11. Dozois, D. J. A., & Beck, A. T. (2008). Cognitive schemas, beliefs and assumptions. In K. S. Dobson & D. J. A. Dozois (Eds.), Risk factors in depression (pp. 121–143). San Diego, CA: Elsevier Academic Press.Google Scholar
  12. Fivush, R., Bohanek, J. G., & Marin, K. (2010). Patterns of Family Narrative Co-construction in Relation to Adolescent Identity and Well-Being. In K. C. McLean & M. Pasupathi (Eds.), Narrative Development in Adolescence: Creating the Storied Self (pp. 45–64). New York, NY: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Friedmann, J. S., Lumley, M. N., & Lerman, B. (2016). Cognitive schemas as longitudinal predictors of self-reported adolescent depressive symptoms and resilience. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 45(1), 32–48. Scholar
  14. Garber, J., & Flynn, C. (2001). Predictors of depressive cognitions in young adolescents. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 25, 353–376. Scholar
  15. Goldstein, B. L., Hayden, E. P., & Klein, D. N. (2015). Stability of self-reference encoding task performance and associations with change in depressive symptoms from early to middle childhood. Cognition and Emotion, 8, 1445–1455. Scholar
  16. Gotlib, I. H., & Joormann, J. (2010). Cognition and Depression: Current status and future directions. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 6, 285–312. Scholar
  17. Haeffel, G. J., Gibb, B. E., Metalsky, G. I., Alloy, L. B., Abramson, L. Y., & Hankin, B. L. (2008). Measuring cognitive vulnerability to depression: Development and validation of the cognitive style questionnaire. Clinical Psychology Review, 28, 824–836. Scholar
  18. Hammen, C., & Zupan, B. A. (1984). Self-schemas, depression, and the processing of personal information in children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 37, 598–608. 10.1016/0022-0965(84)90079-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hankin, B. L. (2008). Stability of cognitive vulnerabilities to depression. A short-term prospective multiwave study. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 117, 324–333. Scholar
  20. Hayden, E. R., Olino, T. M., Mackrell, S. V. M., Jordan, P. L., Desjardins, J., & Katsiroumbas, P. (2013). Cognitive vulnerability to depression during middle childhood: Stability and associations with maternal affective styles and parental depression. Personality and Individual Differences, 55, 892–897. Scholar
  21. Jacobs, R. H., Reinecke, M. A., Gollan, J. K., & Kane, P. (2008). Empirical evidence of cognitive vulnerability for depression among children and adolescents: a cognitive science and developmental perspective. Clinical Psychology Review, 28(5), 759–782. Scholar
  22. Johnson, S. L., Joorman, J., & Gotlib, I. H. (2007). Does processing of emotional stimuli predict symptomatic improvement and diagnostic recovery from major depression. Emotion (Washington, D C), 7(1), 201–206. Scholar
  23. Keyes, C. L. M. (2002). The mental health continuum: From languishing to flourishing in life. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 43(2), 207–222. Scholar
  24. Keyfitz, L., Lumley, M., Hennig, K., & Dozois, D. (2013). The role of positive schemas in child psychopathology and resiliency. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 37(1), 97–108. Scholar
  25. Lemoult, J., Kircanski, K., Prasad, G., & Gotlib, I. H. (2017). Negative Self-referential Processing Predicts the Recurrence of Major Depressive Episodes. Clinical Psychological Science, 5(1), 174–181. Scholar
  26. Lumley, M. N., Dozois, D. J. A., Hennig, K. H., & Marsh, A. (2011). Cognitive organization, perceptions of parenting and depressive symptoms in early adolescence. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 36(4), 300–310. Scholar
  27. McAdams, D. P., & McLean, K. C. (2013). Narrative Identity. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22(3), 233–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. McLean, K. C., & Pratt, M. W. (2006). Life’s little (and big) lessons: Identity status and meaning-making in the turning point narratives of emerging adults. Developmental Psychology, 42, 714–722.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. O. (1998). Mplus user's guide. Seventh Edition Los Angeles, CA: Muthén & Muthén. 2015.Google Scholar
  30. Perry, D. G., & Pauletti, R. E. (2011). Gender and Adolescent Development. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21(1), 61–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Raskin, A., Boothe, H. H., Reatig, N. A., Schulterbrandt, J. G., & Odle, D. (1971). Factor analysis of normal and depressed patients’ memories of parental behavior. Psychological Reports, 29(3), 871–879. Scholar
  32. Safford, S. M., Alloy, L. B., & Pieracci, A. M. (2007). A comparison of two measures of parental behavior. Journal of Child and family Studies, 16, 375–384. Scholar
  33. Seligman, M. E. P., Peterson, C., Kaslow, N. J., Tenenbaum, R. L., Alloy, L. B., & Abramson, L. Y. (1984). Attributional style and depressive symptoms among children. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 93, 235–241. Scholar
  34. Siegle, G. J., Moore, P. M., & Thase, M. E. (2004). Rumination: One construct, many features in healthy individuals, depressed individuals, and individuals with lupus. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 28(5), 645–668. Scholar
  35. Steinberg, L. (2017). Adolescence: Eleventh Edition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.Google Scholar
  36. Tomlinson, R. M., Keyfitz, L., Rawana, J. S., & Lumley, M. N. (2016). Unique contributions of positive schemas for understanding child and adolescent life satisfaction and happiness. Journal of Happiness Studies,
  37. Treynor, W., Gonzalez, R., & Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2003). Rumination Reconsidered: A PsychometricAnalysis. Cognitive Therapy and Reaserch, 27(3), 247–259. Scholar
  38. Wakefield, D. W., & Hudley, C. (2007). Ethnic and racial identity and adolescent well-being. Theory Into Practice, 46(2), 147–154. Scholar
  39. Young, J. E., Klosko, J. S., & Weishaar, M. (2003). ). Schema therapy: A practitioner’s guide. New York, NY: Guildford Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyTemple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Center for Healthcare Organization & Implementation ResearchVA Boston Health Care SystemBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyGuelph UniversityGuelphCanada
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

Personalised recommendations