Cognitive vulnerability-stress models explain depression as the result of an interaction between negative cognitive styles and stressful life events; however, the specific content of the cognitive diathesis varies by model.
This study examined three cognitive diatheses (i.e., unprimed cognitions, cognitive reactivity, and mood reactivity) in a prospective longitudinal design assessing currently non-depressed college students (N = 322) at the start of the semester with follow-up at the end of the semester, approximately 3 months later. At baseline, depressive symptoms, major depression history, negative life events in the past year, unprimed dysfunctional attitudes, and both cognitive reactivity and mood reactivity over a dysphoric mood induction were assessed. Depressive symptoms and negative life events in the interim were assessed at follow-up.
After controlling for gender, past year negative life events, and baseline depression severity; unprimed dysfunctional attitudes significantly predicted subsequent depression severity, whereas cognitive reactivity and mood reactivity did not. None of the cognitive vulnerabilities interacted with negative life events over the interim to predict later depression. After controlling for gender, past year negative life events, baseline depression severity, and history of depression; mood reactivity and the mood reactivity × depression history interaction significantly predicted later depressive symptoms. Greater levels of mood reactivity predicted higher depressive symptoms in those with a history of depression and lower depressive symptoms in those without history of depression.
Results suggest that different vulnerabilities may be relevant to predicting increases in depressive symptoms over time in those individuals who have not previously been depressed vs. those who have.