Integrating situation-specific dysfunctional expectations and dispositional optimism into the cognitive model of depression - A path-analytic approach

J Affect Disord. 2018 Mar 15:229:199-205. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2017.12.082. Epub 2018 Jan 3.


Background: Dysfunctional expectations are considered to be core features of mental disorders and, in particular, major depression. The aim of the present study was to integrate two important types of expectations into the cognitive model of depression: situation-specific dysfunctional expectations (SDE) and dispositional optimism (DO). It was hypothesized that the influence of both DO and intermediate beliefs (IB) on depressive symptoms would be mediated via SDE.

Methods: We examined 95 individuals (age M = 40.7, 68.1% female) with a diagnosed major depressive disorder from two inpatient clinics and one outpatient clinic. Measurements used in the study included the Depressive Expectations Scale, Dysfunctional Attitudes Scale, Life Orientation Test Revised, and Beck's Depression Inventory-II. Relationships between the constructs were analyzed using path-analytic models with bias-corrected bootstrapping confidence intervals.

Results: Results indicate that the effect of IB on depressive symptoms was fully mediated via SDE, while the effect of DO on depressive symptoms was partly mediated via SDE. IB and DO moderately correlated with each other.

Limitations: Due to the cross-sectional design of the study, it is not possible to draw unambiguous conclusions regarding the causality of the suggested relationships.

Conclusions: The present study stresses the crucial role of dysfunctional expectations for major depression. Moreover, it reveals that SDEs as expectations with a high level of situational specificity may pose an important link between global cognitions and depressive symptoms. Given this situational specificity, SDEs are amenable to disconfirmation through behavioral experiments and may therefore be a promising target for cognitive-behavioral interventions.

Keywords: Behavioral experiment; Cognitive-behavioral therapy; Dispositional optimism; Expectation; Major depression.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude*
  • Cognition*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Psychological
  • Optimism / psychology*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Young Adult