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The protective effects of an enhancing cognitive style, positive life events and social support in risk of depression among college students
Can a person have both an enhancing cognitive style and a negative cognitive style simultaneously? And then what role does cognitive style have in the context of stress and the risk of depression for depression? Taking all this into consideration, Haeffel and Vargas (2011) study aimed to address this by providing a more comprehensive assessment of the model of depression. The reality is that people are multidimensional and as a result they can have levels of both a negative and enhancing cognitive style while also experiencing both stressful and positive life events. To further explore this reality, Haeffel and Vargas (2011) merged the two main streams of research that examine the role of cognition in depression. They found individuals with the greatest level of depressive symptoms to be those with a negative cognitive style and high levels of stressful life event. This however was with the exception of those who in addition also had an enhancing cognitive style and/or high levels of positive life events as well. Despite them having a negative cognitive style and high levels of stressful events, they still managed to have similar levels of depressive symptoms as those without a negative cognitive style. They also found individuals with the least level of depressive symptoms to be those who had both a low level negative cognitive style and a high level of enhancing cognitive style and/or high levels of positive life events. Their study showed support for the buffering effects that an enhancing cognitive style and positive life events can have for those with cognitive and environmental vulnerabilities towards depression. These findings certainly have implications for both the prevention and treatment of depressive symptoms.
Through the integration for the two lines of research on the role of cognitive style in depression, the following study sought to find the interaction effects of the following four factors: negative cognitive style, enhancing cognitive style, stressful life events and positive life events. The first line of research that Haeffel and Vargas (2011) study referenced has typically focused on the risk of depression by showing how a negative cognitive style interacts with stressful life events to form depression (Abramson, Metalsky, & Alloy, 1989). The second line of research that they referenced focused on the recovery from depression by showing how an enhancing cognitive style interacts with positive life events to decrease depression (Needles & Abramson, 1990). Through merging both lines of research, their study extended on Voelz, Haeffel, Joiner and Wagner (2003) findings that had looked at the interaction effects of both negative and enhancing cognitive styles among inpatient psychiatric children. From this study Voelz et al. (2003) found that children with the lowest levels of depressive symptoms were actually the ones who didn’t have a negative or enhancing style. As a result, Voelz et al. (2003) had anticipated that individuals with low levels would be the ones with lowest levels of depressive symptoms but instead found no significant results to support their hypothesis. One possible reason for this which they had not considered is the role of social support in one’s environment. Although, Voelz and colleagues (2003) didn’t measure participants perception of social support, they still believed that inpatient psychiatric treatment served as a supportive environment.
Whether one is inpatient psychiatric or out in the world experiencing life events; most people don’t live life in complete isolation from the world. However, an individual’s experience and perception of social support or lack thereof can certainly influence how they cognitively process their life experience. In order to comprehensively assess the cognitive model of depression, it is important to consider the instrumental role that perceived social support have in how one experiences life events irrespective of their cognitive styles. Thus, the goal of the current study is to replicate and extend Haeffel and Vargas (2011) study investigating the simultaneous interactions of the following five factors: negative cognitive style, enhancing cognitive style, stressful life events and positive life events and perception of social support. Consistent with findings Voelz et al. (2003), the following study predicts that individuals with low levels of both a negative and enhancing cognitive style and high levels of perceived social support will be the ones with the least level of depressive symptoms whether faced with negative or positive life events. In addition, it is predicted that those with a negative cognitive style, high levels of stressful life events and low levels of social support will have the greatest level of depressive symptoms.
Participants will be a nonclinical sample of college students that will be selected from the psychology participant pool at a midwestern state school. They will be recruited through sign-up link that will be provided to professors to share with students who would like extra credit points through participating in a study. The study design will be a longitudinal study over the course of four weeks with two different times of assessment. Students will be required to come in twice, with time 1 being at the beginning study and time 2 being at the end of the four-week phase. At Time 1 participants will be provided with an informed consent to sign. After this they will be asked to take an online survey through Qualtrics that will include a brief demographic questionnaire, the Cognitive Style Questionnaire to (CSQ) measure negative and enhancing cognitive styles, the Acute Life Events Questionnaire (ALEQ), the Social Support Questionnaire (SSQ) to measure levels of social support and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) to measure depressive symptoms. At time 2 they will be asked to complete the same measures except the CSQ measure through Qualtrics. When all two stages have been completed, a hierarchical multiple regression will be used analyze the data and test these hypotheses.
The proposed study seeks increase knowledge of the cognitive model of depression by examining social support as an additional environmental factor as a resiliency factor from depressive symptoms. It has been found through risk (Haeffel & Vargas, 2011) and recovery (Haeffel & Vargas, 2011) research on the cognitive model of depression that both cognitive styles as well as life events can interact in way that leads to lower depressive symptoms. Results from this study seek to provide an explanation of how social support may be the environmental factor that explains and strengthens the way these interactions to happen simultaneously rather than separately. Implications from this study will provide a more comprehensive understanding of how those with cognitive vulnerabilities can still be protected from their risk of developing depression when there is the presence of social support in addition to an enhancing cognitive style and positive life events.
- Abramson, L. Y., Metalsky, G. I., & Alloy, L. B. (1989). Hopelessness depression: A theory-based subtype of depression. Psychological Review, 96(2), 358–372. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-295X.96.2.358
- Haeffel, G. J., & Vargas, I. (2011). Resilience to depressive symptoms: The buffering effects of enhancing cognitive style and positive life events. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 42(1), 13–18. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbtep.2010.09.003
- Needles, D. J., & Abramson, L. Y. (1990). Positive life events, attributional style, and hopefulness: Testing a model of recovery from depression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 99(2), 156–165. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-843X.99.2.156
- Voelz, Z. R., Haeffel, G. J., Joiner, T. E., & Dineen Wagner, K. (2003). Reducing hopelessness: the interation of enhancing and depressogenic attributional styles for positive and negative life events among youth psychiatric inpatients. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 41(10), 1183–1198. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0005-7967(03)00030-5
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