Child Psychiatry & Human Development

, Volume 43, Issue 4, pp 612–630 | Cite as

Perceived Competence and Depressive Symptoms Among Adolescents: The Moderating Role of Attributional Style

  • Jungmeen Kim-Spoon
  • Thomas H. Ollendick
  • Laura D. Seligman
Original Article


This longitudinal study examined the interactive effects of depressive attributional style and multiple domains of perceived competence on depressive symptoms among 431 adolescents. Our structural equation modeling with latent factor interactions indicated that (1) for girls with a higher depressive attributional style, lower perceived competence in physical appearance was predictive of depressive symptoms over a 2.5 year period, and (2) regardless of gender, among adolescents with a higher depressive attributional style, lower athletic competence was predictive of higher depressive symptoms 6 months later, which in turn were related to higher depressive symptoms 2 years later. Significant main effects suggested that lower levels of perceived social acceptance were associated with higher subsequent levels of depressive symptoms but only for boys. These findings have implications for understanding the roles of perceived competence and attributional style in predicting depressive symptoms among adolescent girls and boys.


Perceived competence Attributional style Depressive symptoms Moderating mechanism 



This study was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (R01MH76141) awarded to Thomas H. Ollendick.


  1. 1.
    Cole DA (1991) Preliminary support for a competency-based model of depression in children. J Abnorm Psychol 100:181–190PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Abramson LY, Metalsky GI, Alloy LB (1989) Hopelessness depression: a theory based subtype of depression. Psychol Rev 96:358–372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Hankin BL (2008) Stability of cognitive vulnerabilities to depression: a short-term prospective multiwave study. J Abnorm Psychol 117:324–333PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Cole DA, Martin JM, Powers B (1997) A competency-based model of child depression: a longitudinal study of peer, parent, teacher, and self-evaluations. J Child Psychol Psychiatr 38:505–514CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Abramson LY, Seligman MEB, Teasdale J (1978) Learned helplessness in humans: critique and reformulation. J Abnorm Psychol 87:49–74PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Cole DA, Turner JE (1993) Models of cognitive mediation and moderation in child depression. J Abnorm Psychol 102:271–281PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Gibb BE, Alloy LB (2006) A prospective test of the hopelessness theory of depression in children. J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol 35:264–274PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Cole DA, Ciesla JA, Dallaire DH, Jacquez FM, Pineda AQ, LaGrange B, Truss AE, Folmer AS, Tilghman-Osborne C, Felton JW (2008) Emergence of attributional style and its relation to depressive symptoms. J Abnorm Psychol 117:16–31PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Garber J, Keiley MK, Martin NC (2002) Developmental trajectories of adolescents’ depressive symptoms: predictors of change. J Consult Clin Psychol 70:79–95PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Gladstone TRG, Kaslow NJ, Seeley JR, Lewinsohn PM (1997) Sex differences, attributional style, and depressive symptoms among adolescents. J Abnorm Child Psychol 25:297–305PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Lagrange B, Cole DA, Dallaire DH, Ciesla JA, Pineda AQ, Truss AE, Folmer AS (2008) Developmental changes in depressive cognitions: a longitudinal evaluation of the cognitive triad inventory for children. Psychol Assess 3:217–226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Hilsman R, Garber J (1995) A test of the cognitive diathesis-stress model of depression in children: academic stressors, attributional style, perceived competence, and control. J Pers Soc Psychol 69:370–380PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Schwartz JA, Kaslow NJ, Seeley J, Lewinsohn P (2000) Psychological, cognitive, and interpersonal correlates of attributional change in adolescents. J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol 29:188–198Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Harter S (1999) The construction of the self: a developmental perspective. Guilford Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Cole DA, Maxwell SE, Martin JM, Peeke LG, Seroczynski AD, Tram JM, Hoffman KB, Ruiz MD, Jacquez F, Maschman T (2001) The development of multiple domains of child and adolescent self-concept: a cohort sequential longitudinal design. Child Dev 72:1723–1746PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Evans D, Noam G, Paget KF, Wertlieb D, Wolf M (1994) Self-perception and adolescent psychopathology: a clinical-developmental perspective. Am J Orthopsychiatry 64:293–300PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Metalsky GI, Joiner TE, Hardin TS, Abramson LY (1993) Depressive reactions to failure in a naturalistic setting: a test of the hopelessness and self-esteem theories of depression. J Abnorm Psychol 102:101–109PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Abela JRZ, Payne AVL (2003) A test of the integration of the hopelessness and self-esteem theories of depression in schoolchildren. Cogn Ther Res 27:519–535CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Southall D, Roberts JE (2002) Attributional style and self-esteem in vulnerability to adolescent depressive symptoms following life stress: a 14-week prospective study. Cogn Ther Res 26:563–579CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Turner JE, Cole DA (1994) Developmental differences in cognitive diatheses for depression. J Abnorm Child Psychol 22:15–32PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Hankin BL, Abramson LY (2001) Development of gender differences in depression: an elaborated cognitive vulnerability transactional stress theory. Psychol Bull 127:773–796PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Hyde JS, Mezulis AH, Abramson LY (2008) The ABCs of depression: integrating affective, biological, and cognitive models to explain the emergence of the gender difference in depression. Psychol Rev 115:291–313PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Nolen-Hoeksema SK, Girgus JS (1994) The emergence of gender differences in depression during adolescence. Psychol Bull 115:424–443PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Dweck CS (1999) Self-theories: their roles in motivation, personality and development. Taylor and Francis/Psychology Press, PhiladelphiaGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Cole DA, Martin JM, Powers B, Truglio R (1996) Modeling causal relations between academic and social competence and depression: a multitrait-multimethod longitudinal study of children. J Abnorm Psychol 105:258–270PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Thompson M, Kaslow NJ, Weiss B, Nolen-Hoeksema S (1998) Children’s attributional style questionnaire-revised: psychometric examination. Psychol Assess 10:166–170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Gladstone TRG, Kaslow NJ (1995) Depression and attributions in children and adolescents: a meta-analytic review. J Abnorm Child Psychol 23:597–606PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Harter S (1985) Manual for the self-perception profile for children. University of Denver, DenverGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Reynolds WM (1986) RADS professional manual. Psychological Assessment Resources, OdessaGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Klein A, Moosbrugger H (2000) Maximum likelihood estimation of latent interaction effects with LMS method. Psychometrika 65:457–474CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Muthén LK, Muthén B (2010) Mplus user’s guide [computer software and manual], 6th edn. Muthén & Muthén, Los AngelesGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Arbuckle JL (1996) Full information estimation in the presence of incomplete data. In: Marcoulides GA, Schumacker RE (eds) Advanced structural equation modeling: issues and techniques. Erlbaum, Mahwah, pp 243–277Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    McClelland GH, Judd CM (1993) Statistical difficulties of detecting interactions and moderator effects. Psychol Bull 16:376–390CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Widaman KF, Ferrer E, Conger R (2010) Factorial invariance within longitudinal structural equation models: measuring the same construct across time. Child Dev Perspect 4:10–18PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    McArdle JJ, Prescott CA (1992) Age-based construct validation using structural equation modeling. Exp Aging Res 18:87–115PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Pliner P, Chaiken S, Flett GL (1990) Gender differences in concern with body weight and physical appearance over the life span. Pers Soc Psychol Bull 16:263–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Hankin BL, Abramson LY (2002) Measuring cognitive vulnerability to depression in adolescence: reliability, validity and gender differences. J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol 31:491–504PubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Stice E, Bearman SK (2001) Body-image and eating disturbances prospectively predict increases in depressive symptoms in adolescent girls: a growth curve analysis. Dev Psychol 37:597–607PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Stice E, Chase A, Stormer S, Appel A (2001) A randomized trial of a dissonance-based eating disorder prevention program. Int J Eat Disord 29:247–262PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Harter S, Marold DB, Whitesell NR (1992) Model of psychosocial risk factors leading to suicidal ideation in young adolescents. Dev Psychopathol 4:167–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Seroczynski AD, Cole DA, Maxwell SE (1997) Cumulative and compensatory effects of competence and incompetence on depressive symptoms in children. J Abnorm Psychol 106:586–597PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Zimmer-Gembeck MJ, Hunter TA, Pronk R (2007) A model of behaviors, peer relations and depression: perceived social acceptance as a mediator and the divergence of perceptions. J Soc Clin Psychol 26:273–302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Greene RW, Ollendick TH (1993) Evaluation of a multidimensional program for sixth-graders in transition from elementary to middle school. J Community Psychol 21:162–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Shavelson RJ, Hubner JJ, Stanton GC (1976) Validation of construct interpretations. Rev Educ Res 46:407–441Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Marsh HW, Craven RG (2006) Reciprocal effects of self-concept and performance from a multidimensional perspective: beyond seductive pleasure and unidimensional perspectives. Perspect Psychol Sci 1:133–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Nolen-Hoeksema S (2000) The role of rumination in depressive disorders and mixed anxiety/depressive symptoms. J Abnorm Psychol 109:504–511PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Kendall PC, Cantwell DP, Kazdin AE (1989) Depression in children and adolescents: assessment issues and recommendations. Cog Ther Res 13:109–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jungmeen Kim-Spoon
    • 1
  • Thomas H. Ollendick
    • 1
  • Laura D. Seligman
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Psychology (MC 0436)Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityBlacksburgUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of ToledoToledoUSA

Personalised recommendations