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Developmental Relations Between Cognitive Vulnerability, Life Events, And Family Stress

1744 words - 7 pages

Depression can emerge at almost any time during the life course, and the causes and
consequences of depression are vast. Of the many causes of depression, research on the
experience of negative events has surfaced detailing a relationship between the onset of
depression, chronic stress, the experience of negative events during child or adolescent
development, temperament of the child, and parenting styles. More specifically, the onset
of depression has been linked with the occurrence of negative events and a temperament
associated with negative withdrawal. Negative or stressful events experienced by an
individual who is a member of a family are also experienced by the other members of the
family. A recent theoretical reformation of the family stress model (FSM), called the
Interactionist Model (IM), has proposed and incorporated the impacts of economic
hardship on child development directly through increased risk of physical and mental
health problems and indirectly through the stress experienced by the parents. In this
concise review, the IM, the ABC-X model of stress in the family, and a theory on the
development of depression are presented. Empirical findings on the impacts of life events
on the onset of depression are then presented and interpreted using the IM.
The development of depression before adulthood
There is strong evidence indicating that childhood adversities can initiate depression
or amplify its effects (Kessler, 1997). But what constitutes a childhood adversity, how do
these adversities create depression, and why does depression persist? A burgeoning
literature suggests that when children are exposed to traumatic or stressful events, the
success with which they deal with these events depends on their existing temperament and
their parents’ reactions to the events (Mezulis, Hyde, & Abramson, 2006). Most
importantly, they learn from their parents how to make inferences about cause, self, and
consequences, and then make experience-based inferences throughout the lifespan (Mezulis
et al., 2006). The tendency to make inferences also means that the individual will
DEVELOPMENTAL RELATIONS 3
determine if the events are independent or dependent of the individual (i.e., did the
individual cause them); for example, the death of a family member may be considered
independent of the individual because the individual did not cause the death, and a
dependent event involves causation from the individual, such as causing the termination of
a relationship (Kessler, 1997). The tendency to develop depression as a result of negative
dependent events, and to even manifest negative dependent events, is associated with
cognitive vulnerability (Mezulis et al., 2006). Cognitive vulnerability may alter the
trajectory of the development of depression into late adolescence, and in fact, individuals
with depressive disorders tend to experience more dependent stressful life events than those
without depressive disorders (Johnson, Whisman, Corley, Hewitt, &...

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