A longitudinal test of the mediating roles of negative problem orientation and perceived stress in predicting changes in depressive symptom severity

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Abstract Summary

Background: Having a negative problem orientation (NPO; viewing problems as unsolvable) plays a significant mediating role in the impact of stressful life events on depression (D’Zurilla & Nezu, 2010). In the relational/problem-solving model of stress and wellbeing (D’Zurilla & Nezu, 2001), increased stress, higher levels of NPO, and decreased wellbeing are posited to exert transactional influences over time. A true test of the model requires a longitudinal design, yet the majority of existing studies have been cross-sectional. Additionally, despite the proposed transactional nature of the model, most studies only tested NPO as a mediator (Nezu, 2004). It is equally important to test stress as a mediator (Kant et al., 1997). The current study addressed both gaps by using a longitudinal design, and testing the model using both NPO and stress as mediators. Method: Undergraduates (N = 299) completed the Social Problem-Solving Inventory-Revised, Perceived Stress Scale, and Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression-Revised, three times, two weeks apart. Results: Pearson correlations for all measures were positive (p’s < .001). Two mediational regressions were conducted using PROCESS (Field, 2014) with Time 1 depressive symptoms as a covariate and Time 3 depressive symptoms as the outcome. As hypothesized, perceived stress at Time 2 emerged as a significant mediator in the model with Time 1 NPO (b = .1085, CI [.0544, .1693]) as the independent variable, accounting for 7.9% of the variance. Contrary to expectations, Time 2 NPO did not emerge as a significant mediator in the model with Time 1 perceived stress as the independent variable. Conclusion: Support for the relational/problem-solving model was mixed. Stress mediating the NPO/depression relationship is consistent with the stress-generation hypothesis: those prone to depression may behave in ways that contribute to the occurrence of negative life events, which generates more stress and thereby increases risk for depression (Davila et al., 1995). Clarifying the interactive influences of NPO and stress will require more research and a shift away from cross-sectional designs. 

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PM2 (2:30 - 3:30)