Interactive models of depression vulnerability: The role of childhood trauma, dysfunctional attitudes, and coping

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This prospective study investigated whether within-individual relations between depression vulnerability factors (childhood trauma, dysfunctional attitudes, maladaptive coping) and depressive symptom trajectories varied as a function of the number of prior major depressive episodes (MDEs) experienced in their lifetime.


Participants were 68 young adults who varied with regard to their history of depression; 32 were remitted depressed and 36 were never depressed.


Depressive symptoms and disorders were assessed using semi-structured psychiatric interviews conducted twice over a 6-month period; interviews yielded weekly ratings of depressive symptoms during the follow-up interval. Childhood trauma, dysfunctional attitudes and coping were assessed with self-report measures. Data analyses were conducted using time-lagged multilevel models.


Individuals with more previous MDEs who reported greater childhood trauma exposure, more dysfunctional attitudes, or greater use of maladaptive coping strategies experienced more rapid increases in depressive symptoms during the follow-up period. A significant interaction of coping, number of previous MDEs, and time was found indicating that among individuals with less adaptive coping (i.e., lower primary or lower secondary control coping scores), depressive symptoms rating (DSR) increased significantly in relation to number of prior depressive episodes; no change in DSR was observed for never-depressed individuals. Among individuals with higher primary control coping scores, significant increases in DSR scores were observed for individuals with ≥3 prior MDEs only.


Findings highlight the need for treatment and prevention programmes that target stress reactivity and coping strategies early in the course of depression.

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