Attributional style and depression in children and adolescents: A meta-analytic review

Thomas E. Joiner, Karen Dineen Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

183 Scopus citations


The purpose of the present effort is to provide an overview of hopelessness/help-lessness theory, to review studies of children and adolescents which bear on the theory, and to provide recommendations for future work. Our review of 27 studies including more than 4,000 subjects indicates that attributional style is clearly cross-sectionally associated with self-reported depression and with clinical depression, and that this appears to hold across age, gender, and sample type. Clinically depressed children may possess more negative attributional styles than those with other psychiatric disorders, but the data are not conclusive. There was some support for the relation of attributional style to increases in depression over time. As for the crucial hypothesis that attributional style is associated with depression in the presence but not absence of negative life events, the findings are decidedly mixed. We conclude that past work, taken together with our review, has answered the question as to whether attributional style and depression are correlated in youngsters - they clearly are. We challenge researchers to move on to remaining - and theoretically more important - questions concerning when and how attributional style eventuates in depression in youngsters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)777-798
Number of pages22
JournalClinical Psychology Review
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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