Category: Child / Adolescent - Depression

PS14- #A19 - Cognitive Perfectionism, Mindfulness, and Self-Compassion in Depression in Adolescents

Saturday, Nov 18
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Location: Indigo Ballroom CDGH, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Depression | Adolescents | Cognitive Vulnerability

Recent epidemiological data indicate that depression among adolescents is widespread and the prevalence is increasing (see Mojtabai, Olson, & Han, 2016).  Accordingly, it is important to identify risk and protective factors associated with depression in adolescents.  The present study evaluated predictors of depression in a sample of over 700 adolescents who were taking part in a pilot investigation to evaluate the effectiveness of an eight-week preventive intervention designed to increase levels of resilience in adolescents. A sample of over 700 high school students from the Toronto area took part in this study.  Several concepts were incorporated into the preventive intervention including mindfulness, self-compassion, and the benefits of having a growth mindset with respect to intellectual functioning and the ability to control negative emotions.  The current analyses focused on factors that predicted post-test depression. Participants were assessed on several measures at pre-test (perfectionism, growth mindset, mindfulness, and self-compassion).  Depression was assessed at pre-test and at post-test. Perfectionism was a focus in light of recent evidence suggesting that as many as three in ten adolescents have some form of maladaptive perfectionism (see Flett & Hewitt, 2014). Perfectionism was assessed with an abbreviated version of the Perfectionism Cognitions Inventory, which assesses the frequency of automatic perfectionistic thoughts (e.g., I must be perfect). Our participants also completed measures of self-compassion and mindfulness developed specifically for adolescents.  They were also assessed in terms of the whether they endorsed beliefs about intelligence and negative emotion that reflected a fixed entity view or a growth view. The entity perspective is believed to be associated with vulnerability to distress. Our correlational analyses confirmed that depression at Time 1 and at Time 2 were associated significantly with higher levels of perfectionistic automatic thoughts, and lower levels of self-compassion and mindfulness.  There were also significant negative correlations between depression and having a growth mindset with respect to negative emotions. Our main analysis was a hierarchical regression analysis which showed that after taking into account the highly robust association between depression at Time 1 and depression at Time 2, the second set of predictors accounted for a significant 3% of additional variance.  Significant unique predictors of Time 2 depression were perfectionistic cognitions, self-compassion, and mindfulness. Growth mindset was not a unique predictor of Time 2 depression once Time 1 depression was taken into account. Collectively, our results suggest that adolescents who have high levels of perfectionistic thoughts and low levels of self-compassion and mindfulness have elevated and seemingly persistent symptoms of depression. These adolescents likely require more extensive preventive interventions in order to address these deeply ingrained personality characteristics. Such interventions should focus jointly of lessening the effect of risk factors such as perfectionism and enhancing levels of protective factors such as mindfulness and self-compassion.

Gordon L. Flett

York University
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Paul Hewitt

University of British Columbia

Taryn Nepon

York University