Cognitive Therapy and Research
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Despite its strong relation to depression and theorized development across childhood and adolescence, cognitive schema organization has not been explored in early adolescence, a sensitive developmental period for first depression onset. Schema organization is theorized to derive from childhood cognitive internalizations of caregiving relationships, such as critical parenting experiences (e.g., Young et al. in Schema therapy: a practitioner’s guide. Guilford Press, New York, 2003). Thus, the current investigation considers the organization of positive and negative schemas with youth’s perceptions of parental warmth and psychological control and self-reported emotional functioning. Participants were 198 boys and girls aged 9–14 years who completed the Psychological Distance Scaling Task, measures of perceptions of parenting behaviors, anxiety symptoms and depression symptoms. Consistent with hypotheses, higher depression, but not anxiety symptoms were associated with a loosely-interconnected positive schema organization and a tightly-interconnected negative schema organization. Parental responsiveness emerged as the strongest predictor of negative schema structure. Implications for cognitive-developmental theories of depression and early identification of depression risk are discussed.