The role of age, family support, and negative cognitions in the prediction of depressive symptoms

Rick Ostrander, Kevin P. Weinfurt, W. Robert Nay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Cognitive diathesis-stress models of depression suggest that children with a cognitive vulnerability are more likely to be depressed when confronted with developmentally salient sources of stress. The current study examined developmental changes in the relationship between negative cognitions (cognitive errors) and stressful family characteristics (unsupportive family) in the prediction of depression in young people. Participants (N = 102) were between 7 and 18 years of age and included both outpatient clinic and school-based samples. Hierarchical regression analysis demonstrated a significant 3-way interaction between age, negative cognitions, and family unsupportiveness. With younger children, either higher levels of negative cognitions or a highly unsupportive family were sufficient to predict increases in depression. During the transition between late childhood and early adolescence, negative cognitions and an unsupportive family contributed in an additive fashion to increases in depression. The diathesis-stress model was manifested only in late adolescence with greater family unsupportiveness predicting higher levels of depression most for those adolescents high in negative cognitions. Results are discussed as they relate to developmental changes in self-concept, cognitions, and the salience of the family.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-137
Number of pages17
JournalSchool Psychology Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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