EH ESRC PD Fellowship - Self-evaluation in adolescent depression

Project: Research council

Project Details


This postdoctoral fellowship builds directly on my PhD research which examined associations between how adolescents describe themselves and their future and depression symptoms. I found that a more negative view of the self and the future were associated with elevated depression symptoms in adolescents. The implications of these findings are important as they provide support for the cognitive model of depression (Beck, 1967), in which treatment for depression (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is based and suggest that a negative view of the self and future are important components of adolescent depression.
In my PhD thesis, I developed a new method to examine adolescent perceptions about the self and the future. In this method, adolescents generated their own individual perceptions of their futures (in comparison to previous research which exclusively used fixed choice responses; Kelvin et al., 1999). The novel process meant that adolescents used their own vocabulary, and generated responses that were truly meaningful to them - with no loss in internal or external validity - and means that further research will be more quickly translational to inform treatments.
Crucially, I showed that despite a generally negative view of the self and the future, adolescents with elevated symptoms of depression were able to generate some positive descriptions. However, examining the specific content of positive and negative descriptions was beyond the scope of the PhD - yet this has important implications for both the assessment and treatment of adolescent depression. Therefore, the primary research aim of this fellowship is to better understand the aspects of self-evaluation that are likely to be both helpful and unhelpful.
Identifying specific positive self-evaluation from young people with elevated symptoms of depression will act as a building base to improve self-evaluation in therapy. Typically, when assessing negative self-perceptions (one of the key diagnostic symptoms of depression) adolescents are asked how they would describe themselves (i.e., Kiddle Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia; Kaufman et al., 1997). The symptom is met if they describe negative perceptions about themselves or are unable to describe any positive perceptions of themselves. However, we do not know how the adolescent responses should be interpreted or even what the interviewer should be looking for in the responses.
Furthermore, a negative view of the future is suggested to be the most important factor that causes and maintains depression (Roepke & Seligman, 2016), and this is the putative target of some psychological therapies developed to treat adolescent depression (e.g. Horwitz et al., 2017). However, these strategies for improving how young people think about their future could be better guided if we knew more about the specific components of how young people describe their future, and which perceptions are most likely to be problematic or useful in adolescent depression.
Given the important implications of my research on the assessment and treatment of adolescent depression, dissemination is imperative. The proposed postdoctoral fellowship seeks to enhance my professional development as an early career researcher, allowing me to disseminate my PhD research findings by presenting my research at conferences, special interest research groups, local authorities, local school, writing blogs and also contributing to press releases. Ultimately this will enable me to further my career and access a wide range of audiences including clinicians, researchers and non-academics and therefore build new professional networks and develop grant applications specifically focusing on improving treatment efficacy by improving cognitive models and working to translate these models into treatment and therefore further my career.
Effective start/end date1/09/2231/10/24


  • Economic and Social Research Council

RCUK Research Areas

  • Psychology


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