Cognitive styles and future depressed mood in early adulthood: the importance of global attributions

R. M. Pearson, J. Heron, K. Button, R. P. Bentall, C. Fernyhough, L. Mahedy, L. Bowes, G. Lewis

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BACKGROUND: Cognitive theories of depression suggest that beliefs of low self-worth and the tendency to attribute negative events to causes that are global (widespread rather than specific) and stable (will persist rather than change in the future) are associated with the development of depressed mood. Such theories are supported by evidence from prospective studies and have guided the development of successful treatment and prevention strategies such as CBT. However, the relative importance of different psychological constructs within cognitive theories is unknown. This is important to refine cognitive theories and develop more efficient prevention strategies.

METHOD: We used prospective data from over 3500 young adults from the Avon Longitudinal Study for Parents and Children (ALSPAC) cohort in the UK to investigate the association between cognitive style, measured by short forms of the Dysfunctional Attitudes Scale (DAS) and Cognitive Styles Questionnaire-Short Form (CSQ-SF) at age 18, and future depressed mood at age 19. Structural equation modelling techniques were used to separate cognitive style constructs.

RESULTS: Cognitive styles were associated with future depressed mood, independently of baseline mood, both as measured by the DAS-SF and the CSQ-SF. Of the different CSQ-SF constructs, only global attributions were associated with both baseline and future mood independently of other constructs.

LIMITATIONS: The study was subject to attrition and the follow-up was relatively short (10 months).

CONCLUSION: The findings suggest that the tendency to attribute negative events specifically to global causes could be particularly important for depression. Reducing global attributions is potentially important in the prevention and treatment of depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-67
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2015


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Cognition
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depressive Disorder
  • England
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Questionnaires
  • Self Concept
  • Young Adult


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