Emotion-related information processing biases associated with depression in childhood
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Few studies have examined depression in children from an Information Processing (IP) perspective. In this thesis a number of domains of IP (known to be associated with adult depression)are examined in children and adolescents, in particular, autobiographical memory specificity in both clinical and non-clinical samples. Foremost, overgeneral memory (OGM) was found for the first time, to be characteristic of dysphoric (Study 1) and clinically depressed children (Study 2). Similarity in the extent of the OGM bias in depressed and dysphoric children was observed. OGM was also comparable across child, adolescent and adult depressed groups (Study 2). Second, OGM predicted depressive symptoms in children during a stressful life event, in the first longitudinal diathesis-stress investigation of OGM to date (Study 3). OGM was also linked for the first time to an overgeneral thinking style and to a depressive attributional style (Study 3) thereby offering possible mechanistic insight in OGM. Third, in support of Williams' (1996) developmental origins hypothesis, OGM was also demonstrated in children in residential care who had suffered significant independently verified negative life events (Study 5). OGM in these youth was positively correlated with deficits in social problem solving and facial-affect identification, in part contextualizing OGM in children alongside depresso-typical biases. Performance on the AMT also varied as a function of severity of abuse with more abused children demonstrating less OGM -a recency memorial coping strategy is proposed to account for this effect. Fourth, a new measure of EF was introduced and highlights the importance of encoding preferences in explaining 0GM (Studies I& 5). Finally, considerable attention is paid to the pattern of valence results across studies. It is noted that effects most often lie with biases in the processing of positive information and that future studies may benefit from a concentration on this aspect of depressogenic bias utilizing a developmental perspective. Several key theoretical and practical implications are carefully discussed.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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