Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Robert Basso

Advisor Role

Dissertation Supervisor


The prevalence of childhood depression is largely unknown due to widely discrepant methods, different assessment instruments, varying definitions of childhood depression, and different populations under investigation. Theoretical arguments have been made to suggest that gifted children are a population at risk for emotional and psychological disruption. Specifically, their advanced cognitive abilities are considered an emotional liability that could increase the chances of a depressive episode or even suicide. In addition, there have been theoretical articles to suggest that two correlates of depression are stressful life events and explanatory style. Students who experience more stress in their lives are more likely to be depressed, and those students who hold a pessimistic cognitive style for explaining situational events are more likely to be depressed. This present study focused on 178 students in grades 4, 5, and 6 in two elementary public schools in a large urban Canadian city. They were asked to complete three inventories that assessed their negative affect, explanatory style and stressful life events. Teachers were also asked to comment on each student by completing a rating scale of negative affect. Overall the results of the study revealed that fourth through sixth grade students reported lower levels of negative affect than reported elsewhere in the literature. Despite theoretical arguments to the contrary, gifted students scored no differently on measures of negative affect or explanatory style. There was a very significant relationship between explanatory style and negative affect and a moderate relationship between stressful life events and negative affect. Teachers were more accurate in identifying students who were not experiencing negative affect that those reporting higher levels of negative affect. Implications for future research and treatment interventions are discussed.

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