There are a number of possible biological and psychosocial causes of depression. The most widely accepted theories of depressive disorders are stress diathesis models, in which stress interacts with a genetic or psychosocial vulnerability to produce a depressive episode.
Most biological theories of depression assume that the diathesis is a dysfunction of one or more neurochemical systems in the brain. The biogenic amine theory suggests that depression is caused by depletion of monoamines (norepi-nephrine, serotonin, and dopamine) at critical synapses in the brain (Schildkraut, 1965). There is an increasing appreciation of the synergistic action of multiple neurotransmit-ter systems. Hormonal, neuroendocrine, and hypothalamic-thyroid systems may also be involved in depression.
Anumber of psychosocial models of childhood depression are empirically supported. The cognitive model suggests that a depressive disorder originates with a disturbance in the child's thinking. Beck's (1967) cognitive theory of depression describes a disturbance in the memory structures that guide an individual's attention, construction of experiences, and other thought processes. According to the learned hopelessness model of depression (Abramson, Metalsky, & Alloy, 1989), the individual questions the occurrence of a negative or stressful event; the answer to the question is referred to as an attribution and affects the youngster's emo tional adjustment. Depressed individuals have an attribu-tional style that leads to feeling helpless. Additional theories focus on deficits in areas such as (1) interpersonal relationships, (2) emotion regulation, (3) social skills and problem solving, and (4) personal competence. No single theory seems to account for all cases of depression.
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