An Overview of Beck's Cognitive Theory of Depression in Contemporary Literature

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Beck's Cognitive Theory of Depression Features Underlying Dysfunctional Beliefs Beck's main argument was that depression was instituted by one's view of oneself, instead of one having a negative view of oneself due to depression. This has large social implications of how we as a group perceive each other and relate our dissatisfactions with one another. Abela and D'Alessandro's (2002) study on college admissions is a good example of this phenomenon. In their study they found that the student's negative views about their future strongly controlled the interaction between dysfunctional attitudes and the increase in depressed mood. The research clearly backed up Beck's claim that those at risk for depression due to dysfunctional attitudes who did not get into their college of choice then doubted their futures, and these thoughts lead to symptoms of depression. Therefore, the students' self-perceptions became negative after failing to get into college, and many showed signs of depression due to this thinking. Other aspects of this study did not match up well with Beck. They elaborate: "As for participants' more enduring mood reactions, our findings are incongruent with Beck's...theory.... Therefore, one possible explanation of discrepancies between these studies is that immediately following the occurrence of a negative event, cognitively vulnerable individuals show marked increases in depressed mood. At the same time, the do not yet exhibit increases in other symptoms of depression.... However, in vulnerable individuals…such depressed mood may be to be accompanied by a host of other depressive symptoms.... Their level of depressed mood, however, was simply not more severe than individuals who did not possess dysfunctional attitudes" (Abela & D'Allesandro, 2002, p.122). What occurred is that the requirements, according to Beck, for depressive symptoms were there but they did not occur regardless. Findings like this show that Beck's theory may not be as complete as we would like, and there is likely to be factors which are unaccounted for in play in situations like this.

Another study, which was performed on Beck's Theory, was Sato and McCann's (2000) study on the Beck sociotropy-autonomy scale. The scale had originally meant to identify self-feelings that would lead to depression, mainly solitude/interpersonal insensitivity, independence, and individualistic achievement. However, the results of the study showed that the independence did not correlate with depression, and the sociotropy, not autonomy was a precursor of depression. As they described, "sociotropy can be characterized by an individual's emphasis on interpersonal interactions involving intimacy, sharing, empathy, understanding, approval, affection, protection, guidance, and help…tend to place importance on seeking approval from others and on trying to avoid disapproval from others as much as possible." (Sato, & McCann, 2000, p.66) So it is seen that a strong correlation with sociotropy and depression was found, which is a trait that is strong when relating to underlying thoughts and emotions. This support for cognitively caused depression is an interesting use of Beck's Theory.

Moilanen's (1995) study of adolescent depression also attempts to validate Beck's theory in a new way, as Beck worked mostly with adults. Indeed, she found that the student's depression was often associated with dysfunctional beliefs and negative future attitudes. She suggests that the cognitive theory has reasonable validity for describing the symptoms of depression for nonreferred adolescents, and that the subject's depression is closely correlated with his or her ability to deal with dysfunctional attitudes and beliefs, as well as doubt towards the future. Her findings may not sound truly convincing, because she did find some discrepancies: "However, the results of this study were not entirely consistent with Beck's theory, particularly the proposition that a predominantly negative...
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