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APA Journal of Abnormal Psychology

Depression risk and electrocortical reactivity during self-referential emotional processing in 8 to 14 year-old girls.Open in a New Window

Cognitive vulnerabilities, such as a negative self-referential processing bias, have been theorized to play a causal role in the development of depression. Indeed, depression is associated with the endorsement and recall of more negative and fewer positive emotional words (i.e., recall biases) in the self-referential encoding task (SRET). In addition, currently depressed adults and adolescents, compared to healthy controls, show an enhanced late positive potential (LPP), an event-related potential (ERP) component that reflects sustained attentional engagement, during the processing of negative relative to positive words in the SRET. However, it is unclear whether these behavioral and neural measures in the SRET are indicators of risk for depression, or are concomitants of the disorder. The present study included 121 8 to 14 year-old girls with no lifetime history of depression, and examined the association between maternal history of depression (i.e., risk) and both behavioral and ERP measures while viewing positive and negative adjectives during the SRET. Lifetime history of major depressive disorder and/or dysthymia in the biological mother was assessed via a semistructured diagnostic interview. Results indicated that participants with maternal history of depression, compared with those with no maternal history of depression, demonstrated an enhanced LPP to negative words. There were no group differences in the LPP to positive words. Maternal history of depression was also related to faster response time when rejecting negative words. Participant’s current depression symptoms were associated with increased negative recall bias and decreased positive recall bias. The present study provides novel evidence that abnormal electrocortical reactivity to negative self-referential words indexes vulnerability for depression in 8 to 14 year-old girls. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


Loneliness over time: The crucial role of social anxiety.Open in a New Window

Loneliness is known to be associated with multiple adverse physical outcomes, including higher mortality and morbidity risk. However, the impact of loneliness on mental health is less well researched, with most studies assessing how loneliness relates to depressive symptoms alone. We hypothesized that 2 mental health symptoms that relate to the fear of others—social anxiety and paranoia—would contribute to loneliness. We examined how loneliness relates to social anxiety, paranoia, and depression symptoms in a general community sample aged 18–87 years old (N = 1,010). We administered online measures over 3 time points across a 6-month period. In a cross-lagged structural equation model controlling for trait levels and prior states, our results indicated that earlier loneliness positively predicted future states of social anxiety, paranoia, and depression. However, in the same model, earlier social anxiety was the only predictor of future loneliness. These results suggest that loneliness may be a potential antecedent to emerging mental health symptoms and that identifying and treating co-occurring social anxiety symptoms may reduce the severity of loneliness. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


Anticipatory reward deficits in melancholia.Open in a New Window

Dysfunctional reward processing has long been considered an important feature of major depressive disorder (MDD). However, depression is a heterogeneous construct and the nature of this heterogeneity may contribute to some of the inconsistent empirical findings on reward dysfunction in MDD. The current study examined 1 source of heterogeneity, melancholic symptoms, and its association with reward processing. In individuals with MDD (N = 141) and MDD-free controls (N = 113), electroencephalogram (EEG) alpha asymmetry was measured during a behavioral reward task that probed reward anticipation. Melancholic depression was measured both categorically (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [DSM] diagnosis) and dimensionally (Hamilton Endogenomorphy Scale [HES]). Results showed that a dimensional (and not categorical) definition of melancholia predicted reward processing, with higher melancholic symptoms predicting reduced reward anticipation. Importantly, the effects of melancholic symptoms on reduced reward anticipation remained above and beyond overall depression severity. These results suggest that dysfunctional reward processing may only be associated with melancholic symptoms, not depression in general. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


Stability and fluctuation of personality disorder features in daily life.Open in a New Window

Very little is known about the daily stability and fluctuation of personality pathology. To address this gap in knowledge, we investigated the naturalistic manifestation of personality pathology over the course of 100 days. A group of individuals (N = 101) diagnosed with any personality disorder (PD) completed a daily diary study over 100 consecutive days (Mdn = 94 days, range = 33–101 days). Participants completed daily ratings of 30 manifestations of personality pathology. Patterns of stability and variability over the course of the study were then examined. Results indicated that individual PD manifestations and domains of PD manifestations were variable across days and differed widely in their frequency. Additionally, individual averages and level of variability in PD domains were highly stable across months, individual averages of PD domains were predicted by baseline dispositional ratings of PD traits with a high degree of specificity, and daily variability PD domains was associated with elevated levels of PD traits. This pattern of findings suggests that dynamic processes of symptom exacerbation and diminution that are stable in mean level and variability in expression over time characterizes personality pathology. Further, dispositional ratings are significant predictors of average daily expression of PD features. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


Reduced transfer of affective value to instrumental behavior in violent offenders.Open in a New Window

Instrumental or goal-directed aggression is a core feature in violent offenders with psychopathic tendencies. To understand this type of behavior, previous work in the field of aggression has focused on affective processing, with mixed results. We propose that instrumental aggression is best understood in terms of the consequences of affective processing for instrumental behavior rather than affective processing per se. Therefore, we assessed the degree of affective biasing of instrumental action in a group of violent offenders with psychopathic tendencies and healthy controls using a validated affective decision-making task. Participants learned whole body approach-avoidance actions upon instrumental targets based on monetary feedback, while being primed by aversive versus appetitive facial stimuli. Unlike controls, instrumental behavior in violent offenders was not influenced by the affective stimuli. Specifically, violent offenders showed reduced instrumental avoidance in the context of aversive (vs. appetitive) stimuli relative to controls. This finding suggests that reduced affective biasing of instrumental behavior may underlie the behavioral anomalies observed in violent offenders with psychopathic tendencies. More generally, the finding underscores the relevance of examining the interaction between affect and instrumental behavior for a better understanding of dysfunctional behaviors in psychiatric populations. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


The multiple faces of interparental conflict: Implications for cascades of children’s insecurity and externalizing problems.Open in a New Window

This multistudy article examined the relative strength of mediational pathways involving hostile, disengaged, and uncooperative forms of interparental conflict, children’s emotional insecurity, and their externalizing problems across 2 longitudinal studies. Participants in Study 1 consisted of 243 preschool children (M age = 4.60 years) and their parents, whereas Study 2 consisted of 263 adolescents (M age = 12.62 years) and their parents. Both studies utilized multimethod, multi-informant assessment batteries within a longitudinal design with 3 measurement occasions. Across both studies, lagged, autoregressive tests of the mediational paths revealed that interparental hostility was a significantly stronger predictor of the prospective cascade of children’s insecurity and externalizing problems than interparental disengagement and low levels of interparental cooperation. Findings further indicated that interparental disengagement was a stronger predictor of the insecurity pathway than was low interparental cooperation for the sample of adolescents in Study 2. Results are discussed in relation to how they inform and advance developmental models of family risk. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


Sensation seeking, peer deviance, and genetic influences on adolescent delinquency: Evidence for person-environment correlation and interaction.Open in a New Window

Both sensation seeking and affiliation with deviant peer groups are risk factors for delinquency in adolescence. In this study, we use a sample of adolescent twins (n = 549), 13 to 20 years old (M age = 15.8 years), in order to test the interactive effects of peer deviance and sensation seeking on delinquency in a genetically informative design. Consistent with a socialization effect, affiliation with deviant peers was associated with higher delinquency even after controlling for selection effects using a co-twin-control comparison. At the same time, there was evidence for person-environment correlation; adolescents with genetic dispositions toward higher sensation seeking were more likely to report having deviant peer groups. Genetic influences on sensation seeking substantially overlapped with genetic influences on adolescent delinquency. Finally, the environmentally mediated effect of peer deviance on adolescent delinquency was moderated by individual differences in sensation seeking. Adolescents reporting high levels of sensation seeking were more susceptible to deviant peers, a Person × Environment interaction. These results are consistent with both selection and socialization processes in adolescent peer relationships, and they highlight the role of sensation seeking as an intermediary phenotype for genetic risk for delinquency. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


Modeling the cognitive mechanisms linking autism symptoms and anxiety in adults.Open in a New Window

Emotional acceptance, alexithymia, and intolerance of uncertainty (IU) contribute to anxiety disorders in neurotypical populations. Their association with anxiety in people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has not been studied. We aimed to model the contributions of these constructs on the relationship between dimensional measures of autism and anxiety. Participants were 151 adults recruited from 2 sites, including those diagnosed with ASD (n = 76) and a matched comparison group (n = 75). All participants completed a battery of questionnaires measuring core autism symptoms, anxiety, emotional acceptance, alexithymia, and intolerance of uncertainty. Structural equation modeling with mediation was used to examine directional relationships among these variables. Autism symptoms directly predicted less emotional acceptance and increased alexithymia and IU. Alexithymia and acceptance were shown to explain 64% of the effect between autism symptom severity and anxiety level. This suggests that people with ASD experience increased levels of anxiety because they are more likely to react aversively to their emotional experiences, while lacking the ability to identify and understand their emotions. Developing and implementing mindfulness-based interventions aimed at assuaging alexithymia and IU, while increasing emotional acceptance, may be especially helpful in treating anxiety in ASD. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


Mindfulness and zest for life buffer the negative effects of experimentally-induced perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness: Implications for theories of suicide.Open in a New Window

Suicide research can be enhanced by an ability to safely manipulate putative causal variables. The present studies developed an experimental task to modify risk factors identified by the interpersonal theory of suicide (perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness) and examine their hypothesized suppressive effect on persistence in adversity in undergraduate university students. Variables that may moderate the impact of these risk factors on persistence (zest for life and mindful awareness) were incorporated as potential resilience factors. Study 1 (N = 92) found elevated burdensomeness and diminished belongingness significantly impaired persistence. Additionally, these predicted effects were moderated by individual differences in zest for life. In Study 2 (N = 52), individuals trained in mindfulness prior to the experimental task displayed greater persistence relative to controls. Findings provide experimental support for the role of perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness in the manner predicted by the interpersonal theory, and demonstrate a way to experimentally test the effects of resilience factors that reduce the impact of these interpersonal factors. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


The dimensional nature of eating pathology: Evidence from a direct comparison of categorical, dimensional, and hybrid models.Open in a New Window

Eating disorders are conceptualized as categorical rather than dimensional in the current major diagnostic system (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders; 5th ed.; American Psychiatric Association, 2013) and in many previous studies. However, previous research has not critically evaluated this assumption or tested hybrid models (e.g., modeling latent variables with both dimensional and categorical features). Accordingly, the current study directly compared categorical, dimensional, and hybrid models for eating pathology in a large, population-based sample. Participants included 3,032 female and male twins (ages 9–30 years) from the Michigan State University Twin Registry. The Minnesota Eating Behaviors Survey was used to assess disordered eating symptoms including body dissatisfaction, weight preoccupation, binge eating, and compensatory behaviors. Results showed that dimensional models best fit the data in the overall sample as well as across subgroups divided by sex and pubertal status (e.g., prepubertal vs. postpubertal). It is interesting to note that the results favored more categorical models when using a case-control subset of our sample with participants who either endorsed substantial eating pathology or no/little eating pathology. Overall, findings provide support for a dimensional conceptualization of eating pathology and underscore the importance of using community samples to capture the full range of severity of eating pathology when investigating questions about taxonomy. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


The assessment and measurement of adult life stress: Basic premises, operational principles, and design requirements.Open in a New Window

Life stress is a central factor in the onset and course of a wide range of medical and psychiatric conditions. Determining the precise etiological and pathological consequences of stress, though, has been hindered by weaknesses in prevailing definitional and measurement practices. The purpose of the current paper is to evaluate the primary strategies for defining and measuring major and minor acute life events, chronic stressors, and daily hassles as informed by 3 basic scientific premises. The first premise concerns the manner in which stress is conceptualized and operationally defined, and specifically we assert that stress measures must not conflate the stress exposure with the stress response. The second premise concerns how stress exposures are measured, and we provide guidelines for optimizing standardized and sensitive indicators of life stress. The third premise addresses the consequences of variations in the procedures for life event measurement with regard to the validity of the research designs employed. We show that life stress measures are susceptible to several sources of bias, and if these potential sources of bias are not controlled in the design of the research, spurious findings may result. Our goal is to provide a useful guide for researchers who consider life stress to be an important factor in their theoretical models of disease, wish to incorporate measures of life stress in their research, and seek to avoid the common pitfalls of past measurement practices. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)
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