A brief intervention with mildly depressed undergraduate women: Retraining attributions for dating relationships
Because of research suggesting that women are two to three times more likely to experience a depressive episode than men (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1987), that as many as one third of college level students are at least mildly depressed at one time (Gotlib, 1984), that depressed women, more than men, tend to ruminate (Morrow & Nolen-Hoeksema, 1990) and to attribute their depressive symptoms to interpersonal relationships (Robbins & Tanck, 1991), mildly depressed college women were chosen for this study exploring attributions about dating situations in light of the Hopelessness Theory of Depression (Abramson, Metalsky, & Alloy, 1989). This experimental study administered the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), Beck Hopelessness Scale, six interpersonal items from the college version of the Attributional Style Questionnaire, a rumination measure, and a questionnaire of attributions and ratings of current dating situations, to 65 freshman and sophomore women scoring 9 or above on the BDI, both at the time of the experimental intervention and again an average of three months later. Experimental group subjects experienced a dating attribution retraining intervention modeled on Wilson and Linville's (1982, 1985) studies, while control subjects heard about and discussed academic majors. The intervention had a significant effect on experimental group subjects' attributions about dating situations despite no actual change in their own situations, and interacted with initial hopelessness levels to significantly predict greater positive changes in ASQ scores and Time 2 hopelessness levels among experimental group subjects. Dating satisfaction improved across all subjects, but particularly for ten subjects who found monogamous dating relationships over the course of the study. Implications of significant findings, as well as effects not found, are discussed in terms of the Hopelessness Theory of Depression, cognitive treatments of depression, and research on rumination, attributions and depression. Specifically, the role of life stress in predicting depression from attributions and rumination is discussed.