Emerging Adulthood and Prospective Depression: A Simultaneous Test of Cumulative Risk Theories

  • Joseph R. CohenEmail author
  • Kari N. Thomsen
  • Anna Racioppi
  • Sergi Ballespi
  • Tamara Sheinbaum
  • Thomas R. Kwapil
  • Neus Barrantes-Vidal
Empirical Research


Past research indicates that a history of depression and exposure to abuse and neglect represent some of the most robust predictors of depression in emerging adults. However, studies rarely test the additive or interactive risk associated with these distinct risk factors. In response, the present study explored how these three risk factors (prior depression, abuse, and neglect) synergistically predicted prospective depressive symptoms in a sample of 214 emerging adults (Mage = 21.4 years; SDage = 2.4; 78% females). Subtypes of maltreatment and lifetime history of depression were assessed through semi-structured interviews, and depressive symptoms were assessed annually for three years via self-report measures. The results indicated that for both males and females, a lifetime history of depression, abuse, and neglect-exposure uniquely conferred risk for elevated depressive symptoms. Furthermore, the interaction between neglect and prior depression forecasted increasing depressive symptoms, and a history of abuse also predicted increasing depressive symptoms, but only in females. These findings are contextualized within extant developmental psychopathology theories, and translational implications for trauma-informed depression prevention efforts are discussed.


Maltreatment Depression Emerging adulthood Longitudinal data analysis 



The authors would like to thank Hailey Hedden for her contributions to the early stages of this manuscript.

Authors’ Contributions

J.R.C. conceptualized the aims and hypotheses, conducted the statistical analyses and drafted the manuscript. K.N.T. conceptualized the aims and hypotheses and helped draft the Introduction and Discussion. A.R. made substantial contributions to the acquisition, scoring, and management of the data. S.B. made substantial contributions to the acquisition, scoring, and management of the data. T.S. made substantial contributions to the acquisition, scoring, and management of the data. T.R.K. contributed to the overall design of the study, the management of the data, and the preparation of the manuscript. N.B.-V. is the director of the project, designed the methods, oversaw data collection, and contributed to the preparation of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


Authors are supported by the Spanish Minesterio de Economica y Competitividad (PSI2017-87512-C2-01) and the Comissionat per a Universitatis I Recerca of Generalitat de Catalunya (2017SGR1612). J.oseph R. C.ohen is supported by the National Institute of Justice (2018-R2-CX-0022). N. B.arrantes-V.idal is supported by Institucio´ Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avanc¸ats (ICREA) Academia Award and Centro de Investigacio´n Biome´dica en Red de Salud Mental (CIBERSAM), Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Barcelona, Spain. A. R.acioppi is supported by the Spanish Ministerio de Economı´a y Competitividad (BOE-A-2015-6508) and by the European Social Found (ESF). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Data Sharing and Declaration

This manuscript’s data are not publically available at this time.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Iinterest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This present study was conducted in compliance with the specific requirements of the United States and Spain for retrospective studies. All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the present study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph R. Cohen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kari N. Thomsen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Anna Racioppi
    • 3
  • Sergi Ballespi
    • 3
  • Tamara Sheinbaum
    • 4
  • Thomas R. Kwapil
    • 1
    • 5
  • Neus Barrantes-Vidal
    • 3
    • 6
    • 7
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Massachusetts-AmherstAmherstUSA
  3. 3.Departament de Psicologia Clínica i de la SalutUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  5. 5.Department of PsychologyUniversity of North Carolina at GreensboroGreensboroUSA
  6. 6.Sant Pere Claver – Fundació SanitàriaBarcelonaSpain
  7. 7.CIBERSAM, Instituto de Salud Carlos IIIMadridSpain

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