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The Scientific World Journal
Volume 2012, Article ID 810341, 8 pages
Research Article

The Role of Personal Goals in Depressive Reaction to Adverse Life Events: A Cross-Sectional Study

1Department of Psychology, Sapienza University of Rome, Via dei Marsi 78, 00185 Rome, Italy
2Department of Psychology, University of Cagliari, Via Is Mirrionis 1, 09123 Cagliari, Italy
3IRCCS, Santa Lucia Foundation, Via Ardeatina 306, 00142 Rome, Italy
4Scuola di Psicoterapia Cognitiva S.r.l., Viale Castro Pretorio 116, 00185 Roma, Italy

Received 25 September 2012; Accepted 7 November 2012

Academic Editors: W. M. Bahk, J. H. Beitchman, and Y. Bloch

Copyright © 2012 Alessandro Couyoumdjian et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Consistent with cognitive views of depression, we aimed to investigate the mediating role of personal goals in the relationship between stressful events and distinct patterns of depressive symptoms in a nonclinical sample. Participants identified a dysphoric episode that occurred in the previous year by reporting the severity of 12 depressive symptoms and their plausible cause. A goal taxonomy was used to determine how much the event interfered with the achievement of a series of personal goals. After controlling for age and current level of depression, the patterns of symptoms differed based on the triggering events. The relationship between sadness and affective losses was partially mediated by the personal goal of lovableness, and success was a partial mediator in the association between an event of failure and symptoms of worthlessness and anhedonia. Although the cross-sectional design of the study does not allow for conclusions on the direction of effects, findings suggest the importance of motivational factors in the development of specific patterns of depressive symptoms to adverse events. Assuming a continuum from low mood to clinical depression, treatment models could benefit from a precise identification of the specific stressors that initiate depressive behaviour and the personal meaning assigned to those events.