The Roles Of Cognitive Distortion, Life Events, And Personality Style In Depression

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




A one-month longitudinal design was employed to explore the roles of cognitive distortion, life events, and personality style in depression. Subjects were approximately 410 college students, of which approximately 312 completed the study. Subjects completed measures of depression, life events, cognitive distortion, and personality style at initial assessment, and measures of depression and life events at follow-up. The personality measure was used to assign subjects to depression-prone personality groups--dependent, achievement/goal directed, and chronically depressed--suggested by three models of depressive personalities. The treatment of the data addressed several broad questions. The first question concerned the concurrent relationships between the variables. Positive correlations were found between depression and both cognitive distortion (p < .001) and life events (p < .001). The chronically depressed group was more depressed than other subjects at both assessments (p < .001 at initial assessment and p < .01 at follow-up) while experiencing no more life events than other subjects. The dependent and achievement/goal directed groups were no more depressed, nor more vulnerable to depression than other subjects. Next was the question of whether cognitive distortion and life events precede or accompany depression. Instead of preceding depression, cognitive distortion accompanied and prolonged depression. Life events led to depression in some cases but were not necessary for the occurrence of depression, and sometimes had a delayed impact. The next question asked which variables were useful in predicting depression at follow-up. Once initial depression was taken into account, no other variable made a significant contribution to the prediction of follow-up depression. The fourth treatment of the data examined the depressive symptoms of the three personality types. Dependents experienced more weight loss than other subjects (p < .05). Chronically depressed subjects (particularly males) experienced more self-debasement than vegetative symptoms, while the other groups experienced the opposite pattern (p < .05). Finally, the personality groups were compared on the occurrence and impact of different types of life events. There was no difference in the types of events experienced (positive-negative, social-achievement). Achievement/goal directed subjects rated achievement loss events as significantly more impactful than did the dependent subjects (p < .05).


Psychology, Clinical

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