Cognitive theories of depression: applicable across different socioeconomic classes?

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


Are the cognitive and reality correlates of depression similar across different socioeconomic classes? There is reason to suspect that they are not. Depression in the lower class may be tied more to bad life events than to aberrant cognitions, while depression in the middle and upper classes may show the opposite pattern. However, no study has investigated these possibilities. In the present investigation, 396 college students completed questionnaires assessing depressive symptoms, social support, occurrence of life events, dysfunctional attitudes, and attributional style. Some support for the hypothesis of different correlates across SES classes was found, but for the most part, correlates were the same in all classes. Depression was correlated with the occurrence of aversive life events, with the endorsement of dysfunctional attitudes, and with an attributional style in which bad events were explained with Internal, Stable and Global causes. This pattern was consistent across the sexes. Possible reasons for the results and implications are discussed.