Emotional maltreatment and depression: Prospective prediction of depressive episodes

Richard T. Liu, Lauren B. Alloy, Lyn Y. Abramson, Brian M. Iacoviello, Wayne G. Whitehouse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Background: Most research to date on the role of maltreatment experiences in depression has focused on physical and sexual maltreatment. However, several researchers have theorized that emotional maltreatment may be more strongly linked to depression. Furthermore, prospective studies in this area are lacking. This study addressed these issues by examining whether experiences of current emotional maltreatment predicted the development of new prospective episodes of major(MD)or minor depression(MiD), and the subtype of hopelessness depression(HD)in young adults. It also assessed whether current emotional maltreatment from peers and from authority figures separately predicted the occurrence of depressive episodes. Method One hundred and sixty-five participants from the Cognitive Vulnerability to Depression Project were followed prospectively for 2.5 years. Current emotional maltreatment and new depressive episodes were assessed with life event and diagnostic interviews administered every 6 weeks. Results: Greater overall emotional maltreatment predicted shorter time to onset of new MD, MiD, and HD episodes. Peer- and authority-perpetrated emotional maltreatment separately predicted shorter time to development of new HD episodes. Conclusions Greater emotional maltreatment in young adults prospectively predicts onset of depression, particularly HD. These findings highlight the importance of adult emotional maltreatment experiences in determining targets for prevention and treatment. Depression and Anxiety.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)174-181
Number of pages8
JournalDepression and Anxiety
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive vulnerability
  • Depression
  • Emotional maltreatment
  • Psychopathology


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