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Longitudinal Correlates of Depressive Symptoms and Positive and Negative Affects in Family Caregivers of People With Dementia



Caring for a relative with dementia is considered a chronically stressful role associated with negative consequences for psychological health such as higher levels of depression. However, the subjective experience of depressive symptomatology is complex as it relates to two unique domains: positive affect (PA) and negative affect (NA). The objective of this study was to analyze, through a longitudinal design, the associations of caregivers' cognitive (avoidance coping, personal mastery, and coping self-efficacy) and behavioral (frequency of pleasant events) coping strategies with depressive symptoms, PA, and NA.


A total of 111 caregivers of a spouse with dementia participated in this study. They were assessed yearly across 5 years. Mixed model regression analyses were conducted separately for depressive symptoms, PA, and NA, analyzing within and between-person associations of caregivers' age, gender, role overload, sleep quality, and coping variables previously mentioned.


The results showed that different coping strategies were associated with different components of depressive symptomatology. While avoidant coping was associated with NA and depressive symptoms but not PA at both within- and between-person levels, frequency of pleasant events was associated only with NA and depressive symptoms at the within-person level, showing no effect at the between-person level. Personal mastery and coping self-efficacy were found to be more transversal variables, being associated with most of the mood outcomes in both within and between-person effects.


Findings support the concept of depressive mood as a complex construct and highlights the importance of analyzing different coping strategies when trying to comprehend the caregiving stress process.

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