A longitudinal twin and sibling study of the hopeless theory of depression in adolescence and young adulthood

Waszczuk, M.A.; Coulson, A.; Gregory, Alice M. and Eley, Thalia C.. 2016. A longitudinal twin and sibling study of the hopeless theory of depression in adolescence and young adulthood. Psychological Medicine, 46(9), pp. 1935-1949. ISSN 0033-2917 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Background Maladaptive cognitive biases such as negative attributional style and hopelessness have been implicated in the development and maintenance of depression. According to the hopelessness theory of depression, hopelessness mediates the association between attributional style and depression. The aetiological processes underpinning this influential theory remain unknown. The current study investigated genetic and environmental influences on hopelessness and its concurrent and longitudinal associations with attributional style and depression across adolescence and emerging adulthood. Furthermore, given high co-morbidity between depression and anxiety, the study investigated whether these maladaptive cognitions constitute transdiagnostic cognitive content common to both internalizing symptoms.

Method A total of 2619 twins/siblings reported attributional style (mean age 15 and 17 years), hopelessness (mean age 17 years), and depression and anxiety symptoms (mean age 17 and 20 years).

Results Partial correlations revealed that attributional style and hopelessness were uniquely associated with depression but not anxiety symptoms. Hopelessness partially mediated the relationship between attributional style and depression. Hopelessness was moderately heritable (A = 0.37, 95% confidence interval 0.28–0.47), with remaining variance accounted for by non-shared environmental influences. Independent pathway models indicated that a set of common genetic influences largely accounted for the association between attributional style, hopelessness and depression symptoms, both concurrently and across development.

Conclusions The results provide novel evidence that associations between attributional style, hopelessness and depression symptoms are largely due to shared genetic liability, suggesting developmentally stable biological pathways underpinning the hopelessness theory of depression. Both attributional style and hopelessness constituted unique cognitive content in depression. The results inform molecular genetics research and cognitive treatment approaches.

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Adolescence; attributional style; cognitive specificity; depression; development; genes; hopelessness; twin study

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1 July 2016Published
28 March 2016Published Online
23 February 2016Accepted

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Date Deposited:

26 Feb 2016 10:05

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:19

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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