Maladaptive Schemas and Depression

Tests of Stress Generation and Diathesis-Stress Models

Published In: Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, v. 30, no. 1, Jan. 2011, p. 75-104

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2011

by Nicole K. Eberhart, Randy P Auerbach, Joseph Bigda-Peyton, John R Abela

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There is strong evidence that life stress is associated with vulnerability to depression; however, the specific mechanism of this effect is unclear. The current study aimed to address this gap in the literature by examining both diathesis-stress and stress generation models of vulnerability to depressive symptoms in a sample of emerging adults assessed weekly over a six-week period. In support of the stress generation perspective, idiographic multilevel modeling analyses indicated that a number of different schemas (encompassing emotional deprivation, mistrust/abuse, social isolation, defectiveness, failure, and subjugation) predicted interpersonal stress generation, which in turn predicted depressive symptoms. Results indicated partial support for the diathesis-stress model, as moderation analyses revealed a trend in which dependent interpersonal stress interacted with self-sacrifice schemas in predicting depressive symptoms. While both diathesis-stress and stress generation perspectives contribute to our understanding of depression's etiology, the results provide preliminary evidence that stress generation may be a particularly important mechanism through which maladaptive schemas impact depressive symptoms.

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