Journal of Clinical Psychology
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To be considered a vulnerability marker for depression, a variable should, in addition to demonstrating sensitivity and specificity, also show evidence of temporal stability (i.e., remain present in the absence of depressive symptomatology). Although many cognitive factors are associated with depression, the majority of them appear to be episode rather than vulnerability markers. This study examined cognitive organization of positive and negative interpersonal and achievement content in clinically depressed, remitted, and nonpsychiatric controls. At initial assessment, a sample of 54 clinically depressed individuals and 37 never-depressed controls completed self-report measures of positive and negative automatic thoughts and two cognitive organizational tasks. They were retested 6 months later when half of the depressed group no longer met diagnostic criteria for major depression. Negative automatic thoughts decreased and positive automatic thoughts increased significantly in individuals who had improved clinically. The organization of negative interpersonal content remained stable despite symptom amelioration, but negative achievement content was less interconnected at follow-up in those patients who had improved. The structure of relational schemas, in particular, appears to be stable and may be an important cognitive vulnerability factor for depression.