Generalization, Adverse Events, and Development of Depressive Symptoms



Many diathesis-stress models have been proposed in which cognitive processes of various types are presumed to represent vulnerabilities to development of depressive symptoms. This study tested three potential vulnerabilities as prospective predictors of such symptoms: the holding of especially high standards, the tendency to be self-critical after failure, and the tendency to generalize from a single failure to the broader sense of self-worth. At the start of a semester, college students completed a measure of these cognitive tendencies and a measure of depressive symptoms. Six weeks later they completed the same measure of depressive symptoms and a brief measure of intervening life events. Hierarchical regression analysis yielded evidence that Generalization interacted with adverse events to predict subsequent depressive symptoms. Self-Criticism also tended to predict later symptoms, but only if the symptoms were present initially. High Standards had no adverse effect.