Parent Child Bonding and Attachment

As already noted, attachment and the cognition that is linked to attachment and depression is considered an important outcome of parent-child interactions. Moreover, the idea that problematic parent-child interactions can produce vulnerability to depression is a theme that tends to oc cur across cognitive models. Several studies have assessed this theme. For example, a number of the studies examining the impact of parental interactions on depression and cognition have assessed the recall of certain kinds of interactions as they pertain to possible cognitive vulnerability. Two types of interactions that have been of particular interest to theorists and researchers are parental care and parental overprotection. Parker (1979, 1983) suggested that low levels of parental care (defined as either neglect or by overt rejection) lead to future cognitive vulnerability by disrupting the child's self-esteem. In contrast to low levels of expressed care, overprotectiveness is thought to operate on vulnerability because the parent is so anxious or intrusive that a genuine caring relationship cannot be established with the child.

Studies that examine the cognitive component of the link between interactions such as these and depression, however, are much less common than those assessing the link between parent-child interactions and the development of depression per se.3 McCranie and Bass (1984) reported that among women nursing students, an overcontrolling mother was associated with greater dependency needs, whereas for students who reported both a mother and a father who were overcontrolling, a greater tendency toward self-criticism was found. Likewise, in a study among medical students, Brewin, Firth-Cozens, Furnham, and McManus (1992) reported that higher levels of self-criticism were related to reports of inadequate parenting. This was especially true for individuals who consistently reported high levels of self-criticism. Similar results have been found by Blatt, Wein, Chevron, and Quinlan (1979). Because both self-criticism and dependency are thought to be possible cognitive vulnerability factors, and have been shown in other studies to be associated with depressive states (Blatt & Zuroff, 1992), these data may be relevant for understanding the development of the cognitive diatheses for depression.

From a somewhat different perspective, studies by Whisman and Kwon (1992), Roberts, Gotlib, and Kassel (1996) and Whisman and Mc-Garvey (1995) generally examined current attachment levels in adults, and found that insecure attachment is related to higher levels of depressive symptoms (similar to data from a number of other studies examining the link between attachment/bonding and depression). More importantly from a cognitive vulnerability perspective, however, they also found that this relation was mediated by depressotypic attitudes and dysfunctional

3A number of studies have assessed the relation between attachment/bonding and depression, and have typically found that poor attachment/bonding is in fact related to the development of depression as well as to anxiety (for reviews see Blatt & Homann, 1992; Burbach & Borduin, 1986; and Gerlsma, Emmelkamp, & Arrindell, 1990). Because the focus of this chapter is on cognitive vulnerability, the focus here is primarily on those studies that have examined the link between attachment, depression, and cognition.

attributions of the type that have been proposed by various depression theories to be central to the development of depression. These studies thus provide empirical evidence that disturbed parent-child interactions may not only create risk factors for depression, but that these risk factors are cognitive in nature.

Other studies have suggested that disruptions in the parent-child bonding process may be associated with cognitive vulnerability to depression. For instance, Manian, Strauman, and Denney (1998) found that self-discrepancy patterns of the type thought to be related to emotional regulation are associated with recollections of parenting warmth and rejection—dimensions quite similar to the caring scale of the PBI. Such data imply that parental rejection may be a key factor in not only the development of depression, but in the origin of cognitive vulnerability to this depression. Likewise, Parker (1979) found recollections of diminished maternal care to be associated with the kind of cognitive deficits frequently seen in depression. Echoing this finding, Ingram, Overbey, and Fortier (2000) indicated that recollections of maternal care were associated with deficits in positive cognition and excesses in negative cognition. Dysfunctional cognition of this type has been specified by depression theories to represent a key causal agent in the onset and maintenance of the disorder.

In another study assessing the possible childhood antecedents of cognitive vulnerability to depression, Ingram and Ritter (2000) found that college students, who were thought to be vulnerable because they had previously experienced an episode of depression, displayed more negative errors on an information-processing task when they had been primed by a sad mood than did unprimed vulnerable people or primed nonvulnerable subjects. In addition, prior ratings of maternal care were negatively associated with errors on the negative stimulus aspects of the task, suggesting that lower levels of care were associated with the processing of more negative information when vulnerable individuals were in a negative mood. This study, along with those previously reviewed, clearly points in the direction of early interactional patterns leading to the kinds of cognitive patterns linked to depression. More specifically, these data suggest that a perceived lack of caring by mothers in particular may set the stage for the development of a cognitive self-schema that is activated in response to a sad mood and that eventually leads to depression.4

Early Abuse and Maltreatment Experiences. A related but different kind of parent-child interaction has been examined in studies that assess

4Such interpretations do not suggest that fathers are unimportant in these possible vulnerability functions, but rather that these data simply tend to be less likely to detect a role for fathers.

abuse experiences. Although different in focus, just as research has shown consistent relations between perceptions of the quality of parental care and later depression, data have also suggested a consistent relation between reports of abuse, particularly sexual abuse, and depression (for reviews, see Browne & Finkelhor, 1986; Cutler & Nolen-Hoeksema, 1991; and Kendall-Tackett, Williams, & Finkelhor, 1993). In one of the few studies that investigated cognitive variables within the context of abuse and depression, Kuyken and Brewin (1995) assessed memory retrieval in depressed patients, some of whom had experienced sexual and/or physical abuse as children. They found that depressed women who had been sexually (but not physically) abused showed an inability to recall specific memories in response to both positive and negative cues. According to their study, such abuse may lead to the avoidance of key memories and disruptions in working memory, which may then play a role in mediating the relation between abuse and depression.

Rose, Abramson, Hodulik, Halberstadt, and Leff (1994) also examined the mediational effect of cognitive variables on the relation between sexual abuse and depression, albeit from a very different perspective. In this study, one subgroup of depressed individuals who had experienced childhood sexual abuse was also characterized by negative cognitive styles. It was speculated that these adverse early experiences led to the development of negative cognitive processing patterns linked to vulnerability to depression. This speculation was further supported by Rose and Abramson (1995), who indicated that degree of childhood maltreatment was correlated with degree of dysfunctional cognition. Taken together, the data reported by Kuyken and Brewin (1995), Rose et al. (1994), and Rose and Abramson (1995) suggest that a history of early adverse experiences (e.g., sexual abuse) may produce the early cognitive patterns that lead to the later development of depression.

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