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Negative Thinking Mediates the Effect of Self-Esteem on Depressive Symptoms in College Women

Peden, Ann R.; Hall, Lynne A.; Rayens, Mary Kay; Beebe, Lora

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Background: One of every three women between 18 and 24 years of age may be significantly depressed. Younger women have shown increasing rates of unipolar depression since the 1950s, and the average age of onset continues to decline.

Objectives: To examine the prevalence and correlates of high depressive symptoms in single college women 18 to 24 years of age. Negative thinking was posited to mediate the relationship between self-esteem and depressive symptoms.

Methods: A sample of 246 women was recruited from a university student body. Each woman completed a survey that included the Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale, the Beck Depression Inventory, the Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale, the Crandell Cognitions Inventory, and the Automatic Thoughts Questionnaire.

Results: Of the women, 35% had high depressive symptoms. Negative thinking mediated the relationship between self-esteem and depressive symptoms. However, self-esteem also showed a weak direct effect on depressive symptoms.

Conclusion: The findings suggest that negative thinking may play an important role in the development of depressive symptoms in college women.

Ann R. Peden, AP, RN, DSN, CS, is an Associate Professor, College of Nursing.

Lynne A. Hall, RN, DrPH, is an Associate Professor and Assistant Dean for Research and Doctoral Studies, College of Nursing.

Mary Kay Rayens, PhD, is a Research Assistant Professor, College of Nursing and Associate Director, Biostatistics Consulting Unit, Chandler Medical Center.

Lora Beebe, MSN, RN, is a doctoral candidate, College of Nursing.

All contributors are from the University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky.

Accepted for publication September 10, 1998.

Supported by Grant #R15 NR04203 awarded to Drs. Peden, Hall, and Rayens by the National Institute of Nursing Research, National Institutes of Health. The authors gratefully acknowledge the constructive criticism of Dr. Margaret Grier and the assistance of Jewel Begley with manuscript preparation.

Address correspondence to Dr. Ann Peden, College of Nursing, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40536-0232.

© 2000 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.