a1 University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign
a2 State University of New York at Stony Brook
Research suggests that depressive personality (DP) disorder may represent a persistent, trait-based form of depression that lies along an affective spectrum ranging from personality traits to diagnosable clinical disorders. A significant gap in this area of research concerns the development of DP and its applicability to youth. The present research explored the construct of DP traits in youth. Specifically, this study examined the reliability, stability, and validity of the construct, potential origins of DP traits, and the developmental consequences of DP traits. A sample of 143 youth (mean age = 12.37 years, SD = 1.26) and their caregivers completed semistructured interviews and questionnaires on two occasions, separated by a 12-month interval. The measure of DP traits was reliable and moderately stable over time. Providing evidence of construct validity, DP traits were associated with a network of constructs, including a negative self-focus, high-negative and low-positive emotionality, and heightened stress reactivity. Moreover, several potential origins of DP traits were identified, including a history of family adversity, maternal DP traits, and maternal depression. Consistent with hypotheses regarding their developmental significance, DP traits predicted the generation of stress and the emergence of depression (but not nondepressive psychopathology) during the pubertal transition. Finally, depression predicted subsequent DP traits, suggesting a reciprocal process whereby DP traits heighten risk for depression, which then exacerbates these traits. These findings support the construct of DP traits in youth, and suggest that these traits may be a useful addition to developmental models of risk for youth depression.
We thank Melissa Caldwell, Alyssa Clark, Colleen Conley, Alison Dupre, Julie Eisengart, Megan Flynn, Alison Groot, Elisa Krackow, and Kathryn Kurlakowsky for their contributions to this project, and the dedicated families who participated in this research. This research was supported by National Institute for Mental Health Grant MH59711, a William T. Grant Foundation Faculty Scholars Award, and a University of Illinois Arnold O. Beckman Research Award to Karen D. Rudolph. Daniel N. Klein was supported by National Institute for Mental Health Grant MH069942.