Childhood maltreatment and psychopathology: Prospective tests of attachment, cognitive vulnerability, and stress as mediating processes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

A childhood history of maltreatment is a distal risk factor for depression, although less research has examined the proximal mechanisms for this relation. To address this question, three theoretically derived mechanisms were tested as mediators: an insecure attachment style, a negative cognitive style, and negative life events. These mediating processes were examined in two prospective studies. In the first, young adults (n = 652) completed a detailed self-report measure assessing a childhood history (before age 14) of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. In the second, an independent sample of young adults (n = 75) were interviewed with a well-validated, objective, contextual threat interview that assesses a childhood history (before age 14) of physical, sexual, and psychological abuse as well as the surrounding familial context of emotional neglect, antipathy, discipline, and discord. In both studies, participants completed measures of the proposed mediators as well as anxiety and depressive symptoms at 2 time points (10-week interval in Study 1 and 2-year interval in Study 2). Across both studies, a childhood history of emotional maltreatment and adversity specifically predicted prospective elevations of depressive symptoms, whereas no specific form of childhood maltreatment predicted anxiety symptoms after controlling for initial symptoms and overlap among forms of maltreatment. Further, support was found for the proposed mediating processes. An insecure attachment style, a negative cognitive style, and negative events helped to account for the link between childhood maltreatment and later depressive symptoms in young adulthood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)645-671
Number of pages27
JournalCognitive Therapy and Research
Volume29
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2005
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Attachment
  • Childhood maltreatment
  • Cognitive style
  • Depression
  • Mediation
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

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