Attributional style as a vulnerability factor for depression: Validation by past history of mood disorders

Abstract

We tested the attributional vulnerability hypothesis of the hopelessness theory of depression (Abramson, Metalsky, & Alloy, 1989) with a retrospective behavioral high-risk paradigm. Currently nondepressed individuals who possessed either a depressogenic or a nondepressogenic attributional style were compared on their probability of exhibiting major depressive disorder and the hypothesized subtype of “hopelessness depression,” as well as on the number, duration, and severity of episodes of major depression in the past 2 years. Consistent with the predictions of the hopelessness theory of depression, attributionally vulnerable subjects were more likely to exhibit past major depressive disorder and hopelessness depression and experienced more episodes of these disorders than attributionally invulnerable subjects. In addition, high-risk subjects had more severe episodes of past major depression than did low-risk subjects. The two groups did not differ on duration of past major depressive episodes, although there was a trend for high-risk subjects' episodes to be of longer duration.

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Correspondence to Lauren B. Alloy.

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The research reported in this article was supported by NIMH grants R01MH48216 to Lauren B. Alloy and R01MH43866 to Lyn Y. Abramson.

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Alloy, L.B., Lipman, A.J. & Abramson, L.Y. Attributional style as a vulnerability factor for depression: Validation by past history of mood disorders. Cogn Ther Res 16, 391–407 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01183164

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Key words

  • depression
  • vulnerability
  • attributional style
  • high risk
  • diagnosis