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J Abnorm Psychol. 1993 May;102(2):226-37.

Testing the cognitive content-specificity hypothesis with anxious and depressed youngsters.

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Department of Psychology, Illinois State University, Normal 61761.


Beck's (1976) cognitive model of psychopathology stipulates that each emotional disorder can be characterized by a cognitive content specific to that disorder. Although other aspects of Beck's theory have been empirically supported with youngsters, few have tested the applicability of the cognitive content-specificity hypothesis to children. Forty-five youngsters in Grades 4 through 7 who met diagnostic criteria of the revised third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders for a depressive or anxiety disorder and 18 controls completed measures of anxious and depressive cognitions. Analysis revealed that the valence of depressive cognitions played an important role in distinguishing the anxious group from the depressed and mixed groups. Specifically, negatively worded items did not differentiate between groups as well as positively worded items. The anxious, depressed, and mixed depressed-anxious groups were not differentiated on the basis of their anxious cognitions. The results provide partial support for Beck's cognitive content-specificity hypothesis and the broader positive-negative affectivity construct.

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