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Sfärlea, Anca; Buhl, Christina; Loechner, Johanna; Neumüller, Jakob; Asperud Thomsen, Laura; Starman, Kornelija; Salemink, Elske; Schulte-Körne, Gerd and Platt, Belinda (2020): "I Am a Total...Loser" - The Role of Interpretation Biases in Youth Depression. In: Journal of abnormal child psychology, Vol. 48: pp. 1337-1350 [PDF, 763kB]


Negative interpretation biases have been found to characterize adults with depression and to be involved in the development and maintenance of the disorder. However, less is known about their role in youth depression. The present study investigated i) whether negative interpretation biases characterize children and adolescents with depression and ii) to what extent these biases are more pronounced in currently depressed youth compared to youth at risk for depression (as some negative interpretation biases have been found already in high-risk youth before disorder onset). After a negative mood induction interpretation biases were assessed with two experimental tasks: Ambiguous Scenarios Task (AST) and Scrambled Sentences Task (SST) in three groups of 9-14-year-olds: children and adolescents with a diagnosis of major depression (n = 32), children and adolescents with a high risk for depression (children of depressed parents; n = 48), as well as low-risk children and adolescents (n = 42). Depressed youth exhibited substantially more negative interpretation biases than both high-risk and low-risk groups (as assessed with both tasks), while the high-risk group showed more negative interpretation biases than the low-risk group only as assessed via the SST. The results indicate that the negative interpretation biases that are to some extent already present in high-risk populations before disorder onset are strongly amplified in currently depressed youth. The different findings for the two tasks suggest that more implicit interpretation biases (assessed with the SST) might represent cognitive vulnerabilities for depression whereas more explicit interpretation biases (assessed with the AST) may arise as a consequence of depressive symptomatology.

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