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28-11-2020 Open Access

The Architecture of Cognitive Vulnerability to Depressive Symptoms in Adolescence: A Longitudinal Network Analysis Study

Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology
Igor Marchetti, Patrick Pössel, Ernst H. W. Koster
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10802-020-00733-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Rates of subclinical symptoms and full-blown depression significantly increase during adolescence. Hence, understanding how multiple cognitive risk factors are related to depression in adolescence is of major importance. For this purpose, we simultaneously considered multiple cognitive vulnerabilities, as proposed by three major cognitive theories for depression, namely Beck’s cognitive theory, hopelessness theory, and response style theory. In this four-wave study, we investigated the architecture, interplay, and stability of cognitive vulnerability mechanisms, depressive symptoms, and stressors in a large group of adolescents over a period of one year (n = 469; mean age = 15 years; 64% female). Network analysis was used to shed light on the structure of cognitive vulnerabilities in a data-driven fashion. Analyses revealed that different cognitive vulnerabilities were intertwined and automatic thoughts played the role of hub node in the network. Moreover, the interplay among cognitive vulnerabilities and depressive symptoms was already markedly stable in adolescence and did not change over a 12-month period. Finally, no evidence was found that cognitive vulnerabilities interacted with stressors, as proposed by diathesis-stress models. These findings advance our understanding of multiple cognitive risk factors for depression in adolescence.

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