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Thirty-Third Annual Meeting of the Society for Research in Psychopathology

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78. Understanding the Links between Aspects of the Five Factor Model and Depression: The Impact of Life Stress

Objectives: Empirical research has long supported robust relations between some traits of the hierarchical Five Factor Model (FFM) of personality and major depressive disorder (MDD). For example, elevated neuroticism and lower extraversion have both been linked to elevated depression, although links between the other traits and MDD have been inconsistent. Contextual factors such as stressful life events have been tied to the prevalence and course of depression as well, and figure prominently within diathesis-stress models of MDD. Notably, the majority of research in this field has focused on the domains of the FFM rather than the traits at other levels of this hierarchy, such as the intermediate “aspects” level. Furthermore, limited research has been conducted examining the links between the aspects, stressful life events, and depression. The objective of the current investigation is to evaluate the associations between the aspects of the FFM and MDD in those who have experienced life events versus those who have not.

Methods: The study sample will consist of both adolescents and adults with a diagnosis of MDD (N = 237; 74.7% female; aged 12 to 33 years, M = 19.48). Depressive symptoms were assessed using the Beck Depression Inventory-II and Mood and Anxiety Symptom Questionnaire; aspects of personality were assessed using the Revised NEO Personality Inventory; and life events were measured using the Life Events and Difficulties Schedule. Analyses will include hierarchical regressions to investigate the moderating role of life events in the association between specific aspects of personality and depressive symptoms.

Hypotheses: We hypothesize that certain aspects from the FFM will be related to severity of depressive symptoms in those who have experienced life events compared to those who have not. Namely, we hypothesize that withdrawal – an aspect of neuroticism – will be elevated in these individuals, while enthusiasm, industriousness, intellect, and compassion – aspects of extraversion, conscientiousness, openness, and agreeableness, respectively – will all be lower in those who have experienced stressful life events compared to those who have not.

Implications: Results will further elucidate the role of life events in the relationship between depression and these lower-level aspects of personality. Ultimately, these results will aim to inform integrative treatment approaches that are responsive to the presence of personality and contextual risk factors, such as stressful life events.

Alina Patel
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, University of Toronto

R. Michael Bagby
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, University of Toronto

Lena Quilty
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, University of Toronto


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