Aetiologies of Depression

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Mark Scheme


·         Genetic factors

·         Biochemical factors – e.g post natal depression, seasonal affective disorder

·         Psychologal explanations – learned helplessness, cognitive factors

·         Diathesis – stress model


·         Critical examination of empirical evidence

·         Questions about unity of phenomenon

·         Individual differences

·         Cultural differences

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Genetic Factors

·         McGuffin et al (1996) 46% MZ concordance, 20% for DZ showing some genetic basis

·         Genetic predisposition, diathesis stress model

·         Short – short serotonin gene linked to depression – there is a genetic vulnerability

·         Kendler (1992) the comorbidity in twins is high with depression and generalised anxiety disorder, showing depression may be a side effect of other genetically inherited disorders

·         Wilhelm et al – negative life events were linked to depression especially in people with the short short form of the serotonin transported gene, showing support for the diathesis stress model 

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Cognitive Explanations

·         Beck – negative schemas are acquired in childhood

·         Negative schemas activate in new situations, maintaining the negative cognitive triad

·         Seligman (1967) learned helplessness, fail to try and escape any more

·         Abramsom (1978) helplessness causes a depressive attributional style, the cause of any stressful event is internal (related to you) stable (will always be the same) and global (will be the same for every new situation)

·         Hammen and Krantz – depressed women made more errors in logical thinking – supports Beck’s ideas

·         Link is not necessarily causal

·         Originally studies in animals but the same period can be applied to humans

·         Treatment – aetiology fallacy exists, we can’t rely on the success of treatment as proof of a cause 

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