Term Paper: Cognitive Neuroscience

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Cognitive Neuroscience

Developmental Differences in Cognitive Diatheses for Childhood Depression (Turner & Cole 2002, 15-27) is an empirical research study addressing the issue of the developmental stage of a child and its influence on depression causation. The study attempts to address the problem with the blanket association of adult depression causation to that of children, that often if not always excludes developmental stage from the factors of the work. The study attempts to take developmental level into consideration with regards to factorial causation of depression.

Within the work three research question stands out as the most crucial. 1. Does a child's developmental level (here grade level) effect the interaction of events and cognitive style to elicit or prevent depression in children? 2. Does the emergence of interactions between events, cognitive style and grade level differ between domains? 3. Does the relative importance of the domain, to the child cause more prominent interactions between the three factors?

The research base of the work is demonstrative of the recent findings in childhood depression that fail to consider age as a factor to reactionary causation of depression. Turner and Cole address the works based on the Abramson model of learned helplessness theory and children, that study a large range of age without regard to differences in developmental level. The research does not respond to the vast differences that can be associated with the developmental level of the different children grouping together children of vastly different ages and therefore developmental levels.

One example in the work was the work of Hammen et al. (1988) which included children from 8-16 without differentiating by age or developmental level. In the next work an example is then given for why this might not be a possible grouping. As the theory of learned helplessness relies upon the idea that a person must believe in his or her own inability to change the outcomes of their environment through their own volition, often based upon testing and competitive results such as grades, if an individual fails to see the uncontrollability of such issues with regards to intelligence than they are not capable of being in a classic mode of learned helplessness. This inability to recognize uncontrollability can be a function of age.

Until fifth- or sixth-grade children understand intelligence, for example, as an instrumental-incremental attribute, something that increases in response to practice or effort (Dweck & Elliot, 1983; Dweck & Leggett, 1988). Older children, however, understand ability as a capacity (or entity) that is distinct from effort (Miller, 1985; Nicholls, 1978, 1990; Nicholls & Miller, 1984). Fincham and Cain further noted that an actual attributional style is not likely to emerge until a more stable conception of self emerges in middle childhood. Indeed, Rholes, Blackwell, Jordan, and Walters (1980) found that attributional patterns associated with helplessness may not even be possible in younger children. (Cole & Turner, 2002, 16)

It is for this reason and others that Turner and Cole express the need to recognize the effects of developmental level upon depression outcomes within children, rather than using an adult model to determine causation of clinical depression in children.

Additionally the work points out that stress is a multifaceted issue with regard to individuals and that all individuals do not respond to stressful event with a predictable level of importance. With regard to children this is doubly true as developmental level often determines those events which might cause high levels of environmental stress for a child, only a very narrow set of events (domains) have predictable levels of importance (the reader can only presume this means stressors such as death of a loved one, loss of security through abuse of neglect, major catastrophic illness of self or important other, and major life changing events such as separation/divorce of parents or geographic move of family).

The work, in brief used a sample of three aged specific sets of children in the fourth grade (149), sixth grade (131) and eight grades (129). Each group was relatively similar in demographic characteristics. The groups were read and responded to a set of questionnaires that have proven statistically sound in judging symptoms and events links to depression in children. Children's Attributional Style Questionnaire (CASQ; Kaslow, Tanenbaum, & Seligman, 1978; Seligman et al., 1984), the Children's Negative Cognitive Error Questionnaire (CNCEQ; Leitenberg, Yost, & Caroll-Wilson, 1986), Children's Depression Inventory (CDI; Kovacs, 1983) and Shelton and Garber's (1987) Children's Activity Inventory (CAI) were all used to judge specific aspects of the study. Analysis was made based upon the results of the four above instruments and then compared by grade group, and academic and social domains.

The major findings of the study indicate that the evidence supported the hypothesis that cognitive diatheses for depression emerge with age and that the effects were domain and event specific. Findings correlated to the initial hypotheses of the work, demonstrating a statistical analysis, which demands further study. The work overall concluded results, as expected and demonstrated wholly through the research data, a set pf results appropriate to the focus of the theses.

Resulting framework was foundational as it used instruments widely accepted in the research world as reliable and useful for determining the effects of life events and cognition on depression.

The authors provide background data, which was appropriate, to the study and yet could have used more current data to further substantiate their claims. The work focused largely on seminal data associated with the early and late 1980's, much of which has been expanded on through the last twenty years with the inclusive data of age as a possible factor in the works. Yet, the work also responded to the calls for further research within the given data, as many of the early researchers recognized the breadth of the age groups being judged and called for further assessment of age as a factor of depressive symptoms and outcomes.

The sample size is demonstrative of a statistical reality but given the subject matter could have been deemed more useful if the work had been longitudinal rather than simultaneously studying three sets of age specific groups the work might have followed an initial larger younger group through the three age specific stages, to provide a more continuous result. The diversity of the groups demonstrate a relatively true sample of children in the United States but focused on urban children who could differ in event domain, and age importance than those in a rural setting.

The methodological considerations of the study were variant given the age group as those events with broader social meaning (or higher level as the researchers put it) were of coarse more important the older the age of the child while more narrow events (or lower level) were more important to the younger children. With the variance of the event importance among the children the age appropriateness of the work was crucially met as was the consideration of time and attention for each developmental level. One factor that might have been methodologically significant that might not have been taken into consideration was more narrow focus on gender, as only one distinction was made and that was the relative importance of the sports domain to boys over girls. With this factor as part of the mix the work might have raised an issue about the validity of the importance of gender in the level of domain importance that was not otherwise addressed in the study. Removing the portions of the instruments that were sports domain specific might have resulted in a more sustainable overall result, that is to say without the gender factor as a major contributing issue. Additionally the use of historically valid and widely used instruments greatly increases the reliability of the work and the ability of others to move forward with greater understanding for comparative studies on the subject.

The discussion and conclusion closely follow the data obtained and also find with other research, which have historically agreed with the results of the statistical test factors as they apply to this work.

Additionally, the discussion clearly demonstrates any possible shortcomings this work might have with regard to the call for further research in the area of age specific childhood depression research. The discussion points out that even in adults the predictability of certain events to cause stressors great enough to result in depression is relegated to a relatively narrow set of life stressors, for children these stressors are even more narrow and also age, experience, cognition and neuropsychological development level specific. The study might also have been broadened by a further explanation of the nueroscientific impact of development on cognition and social development.

The underlying assumptions of the work are clearly evident within the very focused challenges of the work. That historically childhood depression ahs been poorly judged through a rather basic and unsubstantiated focus on the template of the causation and issues specific to adult depression. It goes without saying that this could be said of many other social/psychological problems and disorders. The work clearly demonstrates that… [END OF PREVIEW]

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