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Gender difference in the social problem-solving ability of depressed and non-depressed adolescents Moors, Erin E.

Abstract

This study examined the relationship of depressive symptomatology and gender with social problem-solving ability in hopes of furthering the understanding of adolescent depression, and how gender and social skills relate to this disorder. It was predicted that non-depressed adolescent females would be better problem-solvers than non-depressed adolescent males, while depressed adolescent females would not differ in their social problem-solving ability from depressed adolescent males. Relevancy of means, accuracy of problem identification, the generation of alternatives, and consequential thinking were the problem-solving processes examined. Research questions were posed concerning possible interactions between gender and level of depression for perceived social problem-solving and problem-solving self-efficacy. 432 adolescents (265 females and 165 males) ages 13 to 20 (M = 15.92) completed a selfreport measure of adolescent depressive symptomatology (Reynolds Adolescent Depression Scale; Reynolds, 1987) . Those students demonstrating high depressive symptomatology were re-administered the depression measure one to two weeks later, along with two paper and pencil social problem-solving measures; the Social Problem-Solving Interview-Revised (revised from Connolly, 1989a) and the Means Ends Problem Solving Procedure (Piatt & Spivack, 1975). Questions concerning perceived social problem-solving and problem-solving self-efficacy were also posed. Students demonstrating low depressive symptomatology were matched with this group and also administered the depressive symptomatology and social problem-solving measures. Students reporting consistent depressive symptomatology on both administrations of the depression measure made up the final group for analyses. The final high depressive symptomatology group included 19 females and 5 males, while the low depressive symptomatology group included 26 females and 11 males. There was a significant interaction between the quality of solutions generated and depression and gender. Non-depressed females were more likely to generate more positive solutions than non-depressed males. Depressed males and females did not differ in their quality of solutions. The low internal consistency of the subscale assessing quality of solutions makes results hypothetical. No other significant interactions, between gender and depression, were found for individual problem-solving processes. A significant main effect for depression was found where depressed participants produced significantly more irrelevant means than non-depressed individuals. No significant gender differences were found for any area of social problem-solving. There was not a significant interaction between gender and depression in perceived social problem-solving ability or problem-solving self-efficacy. A main effect for depression was found, whereby depressed participants perceived themselves as poorer problem solvers, both prior to and after solving the problem, than non-depressed participants. Results mdicating depressed individuals have a lower perception of their problem-solving ability are consistent with cognitive theories of depression (Beck, 1967), suggesting negative self-perceptions are a key area of difficulty in terms of depressed individuals' social skills. In relation to the other results of the study, perception of skills may be the primary area of the problem-solving process with which depressed individuals have difficulty.

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