An Examination of the History, Development, and Uses of the Beck Depression Inventory

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An Examination of the History, Development, and Uses of the Beck Depression Inventory Maya A. Butler
Richmont Graduate University

Dr. Aaron Beck is a psychiatrist widely known for developing the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI); a self-assessment instrument used to assess the severity of depression in adolescents and adults. During his work, Beck highlighted the negative thoughts experienced by his patients, and believed it was these thoughts that caused depression within them. From here, Beck developed a three-part thought process that exhibited how a person’s negative view of the world, their future, and themselves affected their depression level (Brown, Hammond, Craske, & Wickens, 1995). These components were used to construct what we have come to know as the Beck Depression Inventory. Throughout test development of the BDI, three separate instruments were created: the BDI, BDI-IA, and BDI-II. The first BDI was developed in 1961 by Aaron Beck, Clyde Ward, Myer Mendelson, John Mock, and John Erbaugh. It could be administered individually or in a group format, in written or oral form, and the test manual indicated total administration time to be no more than 15 minutes, irrespective of the mode of administration (Carlson, p.117-118). It consisted of twenty-one questions that measured the patient’s feelings within the past week. Each question had four possible answer choices that ranged in depression intensity. In order to score the test, a value between zero and three was assigned to each answer, added, and compared to a key in order to determine the patient’s depression severity. Scores from the BDI could range from 0 to 63, and higher scores indicated severer depression symptoms. Some of the answer items on the BDI had identical numerical value to them, though the statements were not identical. This led to revision of the BDI and introduction of the BDI-IA (Beck, Steer, and Garbin, 1988). The BDI-IA was developed in 1971 by Beck and...
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