Peer Contagion of Depressogenic Attributional Styles Among Adolescents: A Longitudinal Study

Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.
Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology (Impact Factor: 3.48). 03/2005; 33(1):25-37. DOI: 10.1007/s10802-005-0931-2
Source: PubMed


This study examined longitudinal associations between adolescents' and their friend's depressive symptoms and depressogenic attributional style. Participants included 398 adolescents in grades six through eight at the outset of the study. Adolescents completed peer nominations to identify reciprocated and unreciprocated best friendships as well as measures of depressive symptoms and depressogenic attributional style at an initial time point, and again 11 months later. Results revealed that best friends' reported level of depressive symptoms was prospectively associated with adolescents' own depressive symptoms and with adolescents' depressogenic attributional style. Moderator effects suggested that friends' attributional styles were prospectively associated with adolescents' own attributional styles for those involved in reciprocated friendships. Lastly, findings offered preliminary support for adolescents' Time 2 depressive symptoms as a mediator of the association between friends' depressive symptoms and adolescents' attributional style. Findings have important implications for cognitive and interpersonal models of adolescent depression, as well as the study of peer contagion effects.

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    • "However, friends may also impair positive emotional and behavioral development . That is, several studies have shown that youth are often in friendships with similarly aggressive or depressive children (Cairns, Cairns, Nechermann, Gest & Gariepy, 1998; Poulin et al., 1997; Stevens & Prinstein, 2005), often select friends similar on behaviors such as aggression and delinquency (Snyder, Horsch & Childs, 1997; Werner & Crick, 2004) and are also influenced by their friends' problem behaviors (Haynie, 2001; Urberg, 1999). In adolescence, these processes become much more problematic as youth spend more time with peers and peers become important, if not the most important, socializing agents (Jang, 1999; Larson, Richards, Moneta, Holmbeck, & Duckett, 1996). "
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    ABSTRACT: In the current study, associations between individual and friends’ direct and indirect aggression and depressive problems were examined. It was expected that social status would moderate these associations such that low-status preadolescents would be more similar to their unilateral friends with regard to indirect, but not direct, aggression. Furthermore, it was expected that preadolescents’ depressive problems were positively associated to reciprocal friends’ depressive problems, in particular in low-status preadolescents. The hypotheses were tested by studying unilateral and reciprocal friendships in 204 children (Mage¼10.90; SD¼0.78; 44.1% girls). Direct and indirect aggression and depressive problems were assessed via both self- and peer-reports. Social status was assessed via peer-reported rejection (i.e., dislike) and popularity (i.e., who do others want to be associated with). Analyses showed partial support for the hypotheses, showing that individual and unilateral friends’ self-reported indirect and direct aggression were positively associated in preadolescents who were lower on popularity. Moreover, in preadolescents who were more rejected by peers, depressive problems were positively associated to reciprocal friends’ depressive problems. The current study highlights the importance of including social status and distinguishing between unilateral and reciprocal friendships when examining associations between individual and friends’ behavior.
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    • "Furthermore, we expected that some partner characteristics would predict adolescents' subsequent functioning even in the absence of initial partner similarity. For instance, covert characteristics, such as internalizing symptoms, could be less important to partner selection but then gain influence as partners spend time together (Baker, Milich, & Manolis, 1996; Stevens & Prinstein, 2005). In the majority of homophily studies, peer socialization is examined in an additive model where peer characteristics are tested as main effects under the assumption that all peers influence all adolescents in a roughly equivalent manner. "

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    • "Conformity to peers has been demonstrated for internalizing behaviors, as well. For example, one longitudinal study suggested that middle school students with depressed best friends report greater depression over time, and the authors concluded that depressive thoughts and behaviors can be socialized, as initial depressive symptoms are exacerbated through behavioral conformity to a depressed peer (Stevens and Prinstein 2005). Peer-based influence also occurs in positively-valenced domains of childhood behavior, such as academic achievement and motivation. "
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