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Clin Psychol Rev. 2005 Jun;25(4):487-510. Epub 2005 Apr 18.

Cognitive reactivity and vulnerability: empirical evaluation of construct activation and cognitive diatheses in unipolar depression.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, California State University, San Bernardino, 5500 University Parkway, San Bernardino, CA 92407, USA.


Cognitive vulnerability is a central concept in cognitive theories of unipolar depression. This idea suggests that negative cognitive factors emerge during stressful situations, and that this cognitive reactivity is critical for the onset, relapse, and recurrence of depression. The number of empirical investigations that model the diathesis-stress nature of cognitive reactivity has substantially increased within the last decade. This review examines this literature, with a focus on priming and longitudinal designs. Extant research supports the concept of cognitive vulnerability to depression among adults, and support is accruing for the validity of this concept among children. Research that examines direct links between cognitive vulnerability and depression onset, relapse, and recurrence and the attachment origins of cognitive vulnerability is also accruing, although at a slower pace.

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