Cognitive Specificity in Internalizing and Externalizing Problems in Community and Clinic-Referred Children

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Abstract

Examined whether cognitive features in Beck's (1967) model of depression and his cognitive content-specificity hypothesis (Beck, Brown, Steer, Eidelson, & Riskind, 1987) are broadband specific features that distinguish internalizing problems from externalizing problems. From a community (n = 389; 196 boys, 193 girls; age M = 9.98, SD = 1.52) and clinic (n = 82; 55 boys, 27 girls; ageM = 10.42, SD = 2.91) sample, 4 groups were defined on behavioral measures and then examined on cognitive measures: externalizing only (n = 33), internalizing only (n = 41), comorbid externalizing and internalizing (n = 53), and control (neither externalizing nor internalizing; n = 35). Both the internalizing only and comorbid groups reported significantly more cognitive disturbances (negative cognitive triad, cognitive processing distortions, and "depressive" and "anxious" thought content) than both of the externalizing only and control groups in both the community and clinic samples. The results were not related to either overall level of psychopathology (as reported by mothers) or social desirability in children's reporting. These findings suggest that the cognitive features in Beck's model distinguish internalizing from externalizing problems and add to a growing literature that calls for further conceptual refinement of cognitive models for understanding both narrow-band and broadband syndromes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-208
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
Volume29
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2000

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