Situational expectations mediate the effect of global beliefs on depressive symptoms: a 1-year prospective study using a student sample

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Purpose of reviewRecent research suggests that expectations might be a particularly important subgroup of cognitions in major depression. The present study aimed to further specify the role of situation-specific dysfunctional expectations (SDEs) in the development of depressive symptoms. It was hypothesized that the effects of intermediate beliefs and dispositional optimism on depressive symptoms would be mediated via SDEs.Recent findingsWe examined 125 students (age M = 22.05, SD = 4.00, 74.6% women) using a longitudinal design with a 1-year follow-up. Questionnaires used in the study included the Depressive Expectations Scale, Dysfunctional Attitudes Scale, Life Orientation Test and Beck's Depression Inventory. When considering SDEs at baseline as mediator variable, neither intermediate beliefs nor dispositional optimism had significant direct effects on depressive symptoms. Instead, their effects were fully mediated via SDEs. When considering SDEs at the follow-up as the mediator variable, SDEs partly mediated the effects of intermediate beliefs and dispositional optimism on depressive symptoms.SummaryThe study provides further evidence for a cognitive mediational model, suggesting that SDEs mediate the effects of rather global beliefs (such as intermediate beliefs and dispositional optimism) on depressive symptoms. Due to their high level of situational specificity, SDEs might be an effective target for cognitive-behavioural interventions.

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