Childhood Depression and Conduct Disorder: I. Behavioral, Affective, and Cognitive Aspects of Family Problem-Solving Interactions

Matthew R. Sanders*, Mark R. Dadds, Bradley M. Johnston, Ray Cash

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Citations (Scopus)


We assessed the family interactions of depressed, conduct-disordered, mixed depressed-conduct-disordered, and nonclinic children, ages 7-14 years, during a standardized family problem-solving discussion in the clinic. The child's and the mother's problem-solving proficiency, aversive behavior, and associated affective behavior (depressed and angry-hostile) were observed. The child and mother also rated each other's affect during the interaction for the dimensions sad, angry, critical, and happy on Likert-type scales. The child's and mother's cognitive constructions about the interaction were assessed using videomediated recall. Although all clinic groups had lower levels of effective problem solving than did nonclinic children, their deficiencies were somewhat different. Mixed and depressed children displayed high levels of depressed affect and low levels of angry affect, whereas conduct-disordered children displayed both angry and depressed affect. In addition, conduct-disordered children had lower levels of positive problem solving and higher levels of aversive content than did non-conduct-disordered children. Depressed and conduct-disordered children had higher levels of self-referent negative cognitions than did mixed and comparison children, and depressed children also had higher other-referent negative cognitions than did all other groups. The study provides support for theories and treatment that stress the importance of family problem-solving and conflict resolution skills in child psychopathology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)495-504
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Abnormal Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1992
Externally publishedYes


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