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Is the cognitive triad a clear marker of depressive symptoms in youngsters?

Abstract

Research on depression showed patterns of maladaptive thinking reflecting themes of negative self-evaluation, a pessimistic view on the world and hopelessness regarding the future, the so-called cognitive triad. However, it is still unclear if these cognitive aspects are also a clear marker of depressive symptoms in children. Therefore in the current study we will investigate to what extent the cognitive triad contributes to the prediction of depressive symptoms. Four hundred and seventy-one youngsters with a mean age of 12.41 years, of which 53 % were male, participated in this study. They filled in self-report questionnaires to measure depressive symptoms, anxious symptoms, emotional and behavioral problem behavior and the cognitive triad. The cognitive triad explained 43.5 % of the variance in depressive symptoms as reported by the children themselves without controlling for comorbid psychopathology. When controlling for comorbid anxiety and externalizing behavior problems, adding the cognitive triad contributes to depressive symptoms with 11 % on top of the 45 % explained variance by comorbid problems. The findings were observed both in the child (10–12 years) and adolescent (13–15 years) subsample. The standardized betas for the view on the World were low and did only reach the significance level in the adolescent sample. The cognitive triad represents a key component of depressive symptoms, also in younger age groups. Specifically the negative view on the Self and the negative view on the Future is already associated with depressive symptoms in both the child and adolescent subsample. The common variance among different psychopathologies (depression, anxiety and behavioral problems) still needs to be sorted out clearly.

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Acknowledgments

The present study was funded by Ghent University and conducted in collaboration with students. No other funding was available. The study is part of larger projects on emotion regulation (phd projects of Wante, Vanbeveren and Theuwis). The data published here were presented on professional European conferences but not published elsewhere.

Conflict of interest

There is a conflict of interest as the author (Braet) made several authorized version of translated tests and she will receive royalties for this. The co-authors and I do not have any interests that might be interpreted as influencing the research, and ethical standards were followed in the conduct of the study. The local Ethical Committee of Ghent University has approved the study. Informed consent was obtained from both the children and their parents. No animals have been used in this study.

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Correspondence to Caroline Braet.

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Braet, C., Wante, L., Van Beveren, ML. et al. Is the cognitive triad a clear marker of depressive symptoms in youngsters?. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 24, 1261–1268 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00787-015-0674-8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00787-015-0674-8

Keywords

  • Depression
  • Cognitive markers
  • Children
  • Adolescents