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Exploring socio-affective mental health risk factors in adolescence



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The overarching aim of the work reported in this thesis is to build on the current research investigating the psychological and social processes in mental health disorders; in particular the socio-cognitive affective processing in depression across the lifespan. Depression risk is prevalent amongst adolescents, and there has been considerable research interest focusing on building a clear profile of the mechanisms of depression based on adult models. Here, I address these mechanisms and also integrate evolutionary principles to help better understand why depression may have evolved as an adaptive process involving elevated sensitivity to socially threatening information, negative self-referential processing biases, and behaviours associated with mitigating low social-rank status. Chapter 1 introduces the reader to depression and current theoretical frameworks relevant to social processing. Depression risk is then discussed, with a particular focus on adolescence as a sensitive period for both social development and depression vulnerability. Chapter 2 investigates how sensitivity to affectively-laden social information can impact the cognitive systems needed for everyday functioning, with a focus on cognitive control. Chapter 3 focuses on negative biases in the construction of the social self in adolescents at risk versus lower risk of developing depression. Chapter 4 takes a data-driven approach to investigate the relational social values that are important for social inclusivity. Then, further analysis looks at how these social values change as a function of age and mood. Chapter 5 investigates how hierarchical social information might influence memory, using a fully mature cognitive system (i.e. non-depressed adults). Finally, Chapter 6 integrates the evidence from Chapters 2-5 and provides a general discussion about the social processes in adolescents at risk of developing depression.





Dalgleish, Tim
Stretton, Jason


adolescence, depression, mental health, social cognition, social rank


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
MRC (unknown)
MRC (1790757)