Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


The focus of this thesis was Beck's etiological postulate that episodes of depression result from the interaction of an individual's attitudinal vulnerabilities with stressful life events that impinge on those vulnerabilities. Attitudinal vulnerabilities predispose an individual to depression by establishing rigid and unrealistic rules for guiding and evaluating one's life. In Study 1, it was hypothesized and found that attitudinally vulnerable individuals with stressful life events were more depressed than attitudinally vulnerable individuals without such events. Study 2 consisted of a comparison of the responses of attitudinally vulnerable nondepressed subjects, prior to and following a laboratory administered attitude-relevant stressor (experimenter-induced failure on a bogus social intelligence test). Attitudinally vulnerable nondepressed subjects were expected to respond in a nondepressive manner prior to the stressor. After the stressor, however, they were expected to show depressive types of responding in cognitive, affective and behavioral realms. As comparison groups, attitudinally vulnerable depressed and attitudinally nonvulnerable nondepressed subjects were also exposed to the same laboratory stressor.;The results of Study 2 indicated that, cognitively, the vulnerable groups appraised the social intelligence task as being more stressful and important than did the nonvulnerable nondepressed group. Behaviorally, the obtained differences suggested that vulnerable individuals may have difficulty in establishing and maintaining intimate and close interpersonal relationships. Finally, in Study 3, vulnerable individuals indicated greater difficulty in both the resolution of conflicts and in the comfortable assertion of their rights, compared to attitudinally nonvulnerable individuals.;In general, the three studies offer some empirical support for Beck's etiological postulate that depression results from the interaction of dysfunctional attitudes and impinging life events. These studies also offer support for the corollary postulates that dysfunctional attitudes predispose an individual to heightened stress levels, greater dependence upon environmental event outcomes, and certain types of problematic interpersonal behavior.



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