Several studies have investigated the association between cognitive behavioral characteristics and depressive symptoms; however, only a few have examined the longitudinal changes in this association, particularly in children. The current study evaluated the bidirectional relationships among negative/positive automatic thoughts, social skills, and depressive symptoms in children over a two-year period.
Elementary School children (N = 433; 50% female; age range 7–11) were assessed at six time-points over two years. They completed self-report measures assessing depressive symptoms, automatic thoughts, and social skills. Random intercept cross-lagged panel modeling (RI-CLPM) and cross-lagged panel modelling (CLPM) estimated associations between automatic thoughts, social skills, and depressive symptoms.
The comprehensive RI-CLPM that included depressive symptoms, automatic thoughts, and social skills exhibited excellent model fit indices. A significant association was identified between longitudinal changes in negative/positive automatic thoughts and depressive symptoms. In particular, the results suggested a bidirectional, withinperson relationship between negative/positive automatic thoughts and depressive symptoms over time.
Perceived automatic thoughts longitudinally predict children’s depressive symptoms. The study identified within-person factors in depressive symptoms that contribute to longitudinal changes in negative and positive automatic thoughts.