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'Who will I become?': possible selves and depression symptoms in adolescents

Hards, E. ORCID:, Hsu, T.-C. ORCID:, Joshi, G., Ellis, J. and Reynolds, S. ORCID: (2024) 'Who will I become?': possible selves and depression symptoms in adolescents. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy. ISSN 1469-1833

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1017/S1352465823000619


Adolescence is an important period for the development of the possible self. It is also a time when depression is prevalent. The cognitive theory of depression proposes that a negative view of the future is a key feature of depression. Targeting these negative thoughts about the future during cognitive behavioural therapy may be helpful in depression. However, little is known about how adolescents envisage their future (i.e. possible) self, or if the content is associated with affect. The aim of this quantitative study is to describe how adolescents describe their 'possible self' and examine the relationship between the valence of the possible self and depression in adolescents. Adolescents ( = 584) aged 13-18 years were recruited via opportunity sampling via their schools and completed measures of depression symptoms (the Mood and Feelings Questionnaire) and the 'possible self' (a variant of the 'I Will Be' task). Possible selves were coded for content and valence. Despite depression severity, the most common possible selves generated by adolescents were positive and described interpersonal roles. The valence of the possible self was associated with depression severity but only accounted for 3.4% of the variance in severity. The results support the cognitive model of depression. However, adolescents with elevated symptoms of depression were able to generate positive, possible selves and therefore may remain somewhat 'hopeful' about their future despite clinically significant depression symptoms. Future-oriented treatment approaches such as cognitive behavioural therapy that focus on changing unhelpful negative future thinking may not be appropriate for this population.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Anxiety and Depression in Young People (AnDY)
Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
ID Code:115197
Uncontrolled Keywords:Cognitive behavioural therapy, Possible selves, Adolescents, Depression, Future thinking
Publisher:Cambridge University Press


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