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Neuroticism, Life Events and Negative Thoughts in the Development of Depression in Adolescent Girls

Abstract

Theories of depression suggest that cognitive and environmental factors may explain the relationship between personality and depression. This study tested such a model in early adolescence, incorporating neuroticism, stress-generation and negative automatic thoughts in the development of depressive symptoms. Participants (896 girls, mean age 12.3 years) completed measures of personality and depressive symptoms, and 12 months later completed measures of depressive symptoms, recent stressors and negative automatic thoughts. Path analysis supported a model in which neuroticism serves as a distal vulnerability for depression, conferring a risk of experiencing dependent negative events and negative automatic thoughts, which fully mediate the effect of neuroticism on later depression. A second path supported a maintenance model for depression in adolescence, with initial levels of depression predicting dependent negative events, negative automatic thoughts and subsequent depressive symptoms. Unexpectedly, initial depression was also associated with later independent life events. This study establishes potential mechanisms through which personality contributes to the development of depression in adolescent girls.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by a grant from the Australian Research Council to Ron Rapee and also by a research fellowship from the NSW Institute of Psychiatry to Amy Kercher. Advice on statistical analyses was gratefully received from Alan Taylor, Macquarie University.

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Correspondence to Amy J. Kercher.

Appendix A

Appendix A

CES-D-12 Items

  1. 1.

    I did not feel like eating; my appetite was poor.

  2. 2.

    I felt that I could not shake off the blues, even with help from family or friends.

  3. 3.

    I felt that I was just as good as other people. * #

  4. 4.

    I felt depressed.

  5. 5.

    I felt hopeful about the future. * #

  6. 6.

    I was happy.

  7. 7.

    I felt lonely.

  8. 8.

    People were unfriendly.

  9. 9.

    I had crying spells.

  10. 10.

    I felt sad.

  11. 11.

    I felt that people disliked me. #

  12. 12.

    I could not get “going”.

* Recoded

# Removed in non-cognitive version (CES-D-9)

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Kercher, A.J., Rapee, R.M. & Schniering, C.A. Neuroticism, Life Events and Negative Thoughts in the Development of Depression in Adolescent Girls. J Abnorm Child Psychol 37, 903–915 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-009-9325-1

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Keywords

  • Depression
  • Neuroticism
  • Stress-generation
  • Developmental psychopathology