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Cogn Ther Res (2013) 37:97108

DOI 10.1007/s10608-012-9455-6


The Role of Positive Schemas in Child Psychopathology

and Resilience
L. Keyfitz M. N. Lumley K. H. Hennig

D. J. A. Dozois

Published online: 5 April 2012

Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Abstract Cognitive models of child psychopathology Introduction

rarely consider positive schemas in models of risk. This
study presents the new Positive Schema Questionnaire Decades of research have established negative cognitive
(PSQ) for youth, evaluating relations of positive schema schemas as potent vulnerability factors for various negative
themes to depression, anxiety, and resilience. Adolescent developmental outcomes, particularly vulnerability to
boys (n = 84) and girls (n = 88), aged 914 (M = 11.44), psychopathology (see Abela and Hankin 2008 and Dozois
completed the PSQ, and measures of negative schemas, and Beck 2008, for reviews). Yet, little research has
depression, anxiety, and resilience. Exploratory factor focused on how positive core beliefs such as I can trust
analyses of the PSQ supported a five-factor structure others or Things will turn out well for me relate to
including themes of: Self-Efficacy, Optimism, Trust, Suc- psychopathology and emotional well being. This paucity of
cess, and Worthiness. Supporting its discriminant validity, research continues despite findings that support the relation
the PSQ predicted additional variance in depression, anx- between positive cognition and psychopathology (e.g.,
iety, and resilience, beyond that predicted by negative Jaenicke et al. 1987; Prieto et al. 1992; Shirk et al. 1998).
schemas. Furthermore, the content specificity model as These studies typically focus on positive states on a broad
envisioned for negative schemas, was found to apply to level across all content domains, and may consequently
positive schemas, with themes of Worthiness most pre- miss important information regarding the relations of spe-
dictive of depression and Self-Efficacy most predictive cific schema themes to various forms of psychopathology
of anxiety and resilience. Findings have implications for or to emotional well being. Although measures of positive
incorporating positive schemas into cognitive models of cognition have been developed (e.g., Positive Automatic
psychopathology. Thoughts Questionnaire, Ingram and Wisnicki 1988), the
field currently lacks a measure of specific core positive
Keywords Positive schemas  Cognitive vulnerability  schema themes. By developing a positive schema ques-
Depression  Resilience tionnaire for youth, the aim of the current study is to
contribute to a deeper understanding of the role of positive
schema themes in relation to depression, anxiety, and
resilience in early adolescence.

Current Cognitive Models of Child Psychopathology

L. Keyfitz  M. N. Lumley (&)  K. H. Hennig
Department of Psychology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Cognitive theories of psychopathology typically focus on
ON N1G 2W1, Canada negative cognitive schemas as a central vulnerability factor
e-mail: (e.g., Beck 1967). Schemas here are defined as mental
structures that guide the interpretation, categorization and
D. J. A. Dozois
Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, evaluation of ones experiences (James et al. 2007;
London, ON, Canada Schmidt et al. 1999) and may be referred to as filters, as

98 Cogn Ther Res (2013) 37:97108

they guide the way in which information is interpreted and (MacLeod et al. 1996). For example, research indicates that
absorbed (Beck and Dozois 2011; Kendall and MacDonald depression is often characterized by both the presence of
1993). Cognitive schemas are theorized to be comprised of negative cognitions as well as the absence of positive
both structure and content (Beck 1967). Schema structure cognitions, whereas anxiety is more typically characterized
refers to how information related to the self is organized in by the presence of negative cognitions alone (e.g. MacLeod
the mind, and recent research suggests that the structure of and Byrne 1996; MacLeod et al. 1993; MacLeod and
positive and negative schemas predicts youth depression Salaminious 2001; Muris and Heiden 2006). Thus, for
symptoms (Lumley et al. 2011). Consistent with the anxious individuals, having negative future expectations
Schema Theory literature (e.g., Young et al. 2003), the does not exclude having positive future expectations. By
current paper focuses on schema content (i.e., core beliefs acknowledging the distinction between positive and nega-
about self, such as, I am worthy of love) rather than tive experiences, one cannot assume an understanding of
structure. positive schemas through knowledge of negative schemas.
Becks (1967, 1983) influential model of psychopa- Thus, the importance of developing an understanding of the
thology posits that maladaptive schemas develop in early role that positive schemas play in child psychopathology
childhood and, when triggered by a negative life event, becomes increasingly evident.
result in the processing of information in a way consistent Given that the presence of positive cognitions cannot
with ones preexisting beliefs. Furthermore, Becks con- likely be inferred from a lack of negative cognitions, it is
tent-specificity hypothesis notes that the specific content of important to focus on elucidating particular positive sche-
ones schemas are important in determining various emo- mas that may play an important role in child psychopa-
tional outcomes (Beck 1976; Beck and Dozois 2011; Beck thology. The goal of the current study is to evaluate how
et al. 1979). Young (1999; Young et al. 2003) elaborated specific positive schema themes relate to child psychopa-
on Becks theories by focusing on factors implicated in thology and resilience. Schema themes of interest were
schema development. He proposed that a childs early identified by surveying the developmental literature on
experiences impact the development of core beliefs, self-concept and positive psychology and by searching for
resulting in the development of early maladaptive schemas themes that resonated with the research team. The themes
(EMS). Young proposes 18 EMS, and suggests that the selected include: Worthiness, a sense that one has value
specific EMS possessed by an individual plays an impor- and worth as a person (Mruk 2006); Self-efficacy, beliefs
tant role in the diathesis to various forms of psychopa- in ones capabilities to mobilize the motivation, cognitive
thology. These cognitive models of psychopathology have resources and courses of action needed to meet given sit-
been researched extensively and have garnered support uational demands (Wood and Bandura 1989, p. 408);
amongst youth (see Abela and Hankin 2008; Hankin and Optimism, ones belief that outcome expectancies will be
Abela 2005; Lakdawalla et al. 2007, for reviews). The favorable, or good rather than bad (Scheier and Carver
current study is poised to develop a more comprehensive 1985); Success/Competence, the tendency to anticipate that
understanding of cognitive risk by developing an under- ones performance will typically be followed by success
standing of the role of positive schemas in youth psycho- (Wigfield and Eccles 2002); Trust, a feeling that one can
pathology and well being. rely on others and accept vulnerability based upon posi-
tive expectations of the intentions or behaviours of
Unique Contribution of Positive Schemas another (Rousseau et al. 1998, p. 395); and Social Con-
nectedness, a sense of closeness to others including family,
The dearth of research on the role of positive schemas in friends, and social groups, that enables a person to feel a
vulnerability to child psychopathology may in part result sense of belongingness (Lee and Robins 1995). This study
from the common perception that positive cognition is examines how each of these schema themes relates dif-
simply the inverse of negative cognition (MacLeod and ferentially to depression, anxiety, and resilience. Further-
Moore 2000). Yet, researchers have demonstrated that more, to test the premise that positive cognition is not
positive and negative experiences represent two separate simply the inverse of negative cognition, the unique con-
continua at various levels of analysis including affective, tribution that positive schemas play in predicting various
motivational, behavioural, and cognitive (Clark et al. 1994; developmental outcomes in early adolescence (beyond that
MacLeod and Byrne 1996; MacLeod et al. 1996). Theory explained by negative schemas) was evaluated.
suggests that human behaviours might be considered in
terms of two systems: one that influences avoidance Positive Schema Questionnaire
behaviour, negative affect, and negative expectancies for
the future, and the other that influences approach behav- No single measure currently exists to examine particular
iour, positive affect, and positive future expectancies themes of positive schemas in early adolescence. Indeed,

Cogn Ther Res (2013) 37:97108 99

the almost exclusive focus on negative rather than positive Positive Schemas and Anxiety
cognitive schemas is reflected in previous attempts to
develop schema measures (e.g., Early Maladaptive Schema Although the role of positive cognition in anxiety disorders
Questionnaire; Cecero et al. 2004; Schema Questionnaire has also been neglected in favor of a focus on negative
for Children; Stallard and Rayner 2005; Young Schema cognitions, recent research indicates that an understanding
Questionnaire; Young 1994). Based on Youngs (1999; of positive schemas might make important contributions to
Young et al. 2003) Schema Theory, there have been some the conceptualization of anxiety disorders (Casey et al.
attempts to develop an inventory to evaluate childrens 2004a, b; Muris 2002). A large body of evidence indicates
negative schemas (e.g., SQC; Stallard and Rayner 2005). that negative systems are related to anxiety whereas posi-
Yet, the field is lacking a comparable measure of positive tive systems are not (e.g., Clark and Watson 1991;
schema content for youth. Given the importance of a MacLeod and Byrne 1996; MacLeod et al. 1997). For
psychometrically sound tool for evaluating positive sche- example, research comparing anxiety and depression often
mas for further articulating models of risk and resilience, a indicates that depression is associated with both high
developmentally appropriate Positive Schema Question- negative and low positive experience, whereas anxiety is
naire was constructed to evaluate positive core schemas in only associated with negative behavioural (e.g., Clark et al.
youth. 1994), affective (e.g., Clark and Watson 1991) and cog-
nitive systems (e.g., MacLeod and Byrne 1996; MacLeod
Positive Schemas and Depression and Salaminiou 2001; MacLeod et al. 1997; Muris and
Heiden 2006). By contrast, Beck et al. (1985) propose that
There is some evidence that low levels of positive sche- vulnerability to anxiety is a result of both negative schemas
mas are implicated in childhood depression (e.g., Jaenicke surrounding threat combined with a lack of positive sche-
et al. 1987; Prieto et al. 1992; Shirk et al. 1998; Whitman mas with themes of control. Furthermore, Bandura (1988)
and Leitenberg 1990), but the majority of this research argues that ones self-efficacy regarding coping ability
evaluates positive schemas on a broad level in which plays a role in determining ones perception of danger.
positive states are assessed across all situations and con- Thus, vulnerability to anxiety may relate to both negative
tent domains (Dykman et al. 1989). Indeed, research cognitions surrounding danger and positive cognitions
suggests that depression is negatively related to various surrounding self-efficacy.
positive cognitive constructs across a wide variety of Low levels of positive cognitions regarding control and
domains. (e.g., Bandura et al. 1999; Cole 1991; Garber coping self-efficacy do appear to play a role in vulnera-
et al. 1997; Marshall and Lang 1990; Muris 2002; Puskar bility to anxiety disorders in youth (e.g., Bogels and Zig-
et al. 1990). terman 2000; Matsuo and Arai 1998; Muris 2002; Yue
Lacking positive global self-schemas may play an even 1996). Specifically, low self-efficacy has been implicated
more important role than negative schemas in the diathesis in various childhood anxiety disorders including social
for youth depression symptoms (e.g., McClain and phobia, separation anxiety disorder and generalized anxiety
Abramson 1995; Whitman and Leitenberg 1990). Whitman disorder (e.g., Bogels and Zigterman 2000; Matsuo and
and Leitenberg, for example, found that children with Arai 1998; Muris 2002; Yue 1996). Examining the global
depression exhibited problems processing positive, but not relationship between positive schemas and anxiety may
negative information. McClain and Abramson (1995) also mask more complex relationships that exist at the specific
found that non-dysphoric, mildly dysphoric, and severely schema level. Thus, evaluating relations between specific
dysphoric undergraduate students could be differentiated schemas and anxiety may be more illuminating with
only based on their levels of positive schemas and not regards to how positive schemas relate to anxiety.
negative schemas. Further emphasizing the importance of
positive schemas in vulnerability to depression, Prieto et al. Positive Schemas and Resilience
(1992) found that young adults with depression possessed
fewer positive schemas than those who were not depressed, Research has investigated how the absence of positive
but nonetheless identified more positive than negative schemas impacts child development (e.g., Jaenicke et al.
schemas overall. While some research does emphasize 1987; Prieto et al. 1992; Shirk et al. 1998); however, few
the importance of positive schemas in vulnerability to studies explicitly investigate links between specific posi-
depression, evaluations have typically been conducted at a tive schemas and resilience, or ones ability to adaptively
global level. To gain a more comprehensive picture of the cope with adversity (Wagnild and Young 1993). What
role of positive schemas in depression, it is important to research is available supports the idea that positive states
look at specific schema content areas rather than broad facilitate future resilience (e.g., Diener and Diener 1996;
generalizations. Fredrickson 2004; Fredrickson and Joiner 2002). Research

100 Cogn Ther Res (2013) 37:97108

on positive cognition indicates that positive cognitions are reported clinically elevated anxiety symptoms, with scores
not only necessary for mental health and happiness, but ranging from 1 to 26 (M = 12.22). The participants were
perhaps even to maintain a neutral emotional state (Caci- recruited from four elementary schools from in south-
oppo et al. 1999; Diener and Diener 1996). Research western Ontario.
consistently suggests that most individuals possess posi-
tively biased self-views (e.g., Greenwald 1980; Taylor and Measures
Brown 1988), exaggerated beliefs regarding personal con-
trol (e.g., Fleming and Darley 1986; Miller and Ross 1975) Positive Schema Questionnaire (PSQ)
and unrealistic optimism (Langer and Roth 1975). In fact,
lacking these biases has been linked to negative mental This 36-item, 6-point Likert-type self-report questionnaire
health (e.g., Abramson and Alloy 1981; Coyne and Gotlieb is a measure of positive core schema themes in youth.
1983; Golin et al. 1977, 1979; Ruehlman et al. 1985; Participants rated how much they agree with statements
Watson and Clark 1984). By examining which particular such as I look at the bright side of things, and I believe
positive schema themes relate to child resilience, we will in myself. Schema domains assessed included: (a) wor-
gather knowledge that may help improve childrens ability thiness (b) self-efficacy (c) optimism (d) success (e) trust,
to cope with adversity. and (f) social connectedness.
Schema themes were selected by surveying develop-
Hypotheses mental literature and identifying constructs frequently
found to play a role in vulnerability to child psychopa-
The objective of the current study was to gain an under- thology and resilience. After surveying the literature,
standing of positive schemas with themes of worthiness, schema definitions were generated for each identified
self-efficacy, optimism, success, trust, and social connect- schema theme, and items for each domain were constructed
edness as they relate to emotional well being in youth. To by a group of graduate and undergraduate researchers.
facilitate this goal, a developmentally sensitive, psycho- Clinical psychologists and graduate students selected items
metrically sound measure of positive schemas was devel- that best represented the central features of each schema
oped. We hypothesized that a global measure of positive and these items were administered to 172 youth aged 914.
schemas (derived from Positive Schema Questionnaire; A Factor Analysis was conducted to validate the factor
PSQ) would be negatively associated with depression, structure of the scale. Further information on scale devel-
positively related to resilience, and that relations would opment and the results of the factor analysis are provided in
also exist between anxiety and specific rather than global the results section of the paper. Following factor analysis,
positive schemas. Positive schemas were also hypothesized the internal consistency for the scale was .93.
to predict unique variance in depression and resilience
scores, beyond that explained by negative schemas. Fur- Schema Questionnaire for Children (SQC: Stallard
thermore, given the potentially unique role of each schema and Rayner 2005)
theme of interest, we hypothesized that when the covari-
ance among the various schemas was accounted for, par- The SQC is a 15-item, 6-point Likert self-report measure of
ticular schema themes would predict unique variance in childrens negative core schemas. Each item in the scale
depression, anxiety, and resilience. represents a single Early Maladaptive Schema theme pro-
posed by Young (1990). The scale possesses adequate face
validity, as well as convergent validity for 12 of the 15
Method SQC items as compared to the Young Schema Question-
naire (Stallard and Rayner). The internal consistency esti-
Participants mate for the SQC in the current sample was .73.

Participants were 172 adolescent boys (n = 84) and girls Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children-10 (MASC-
(n = 88), aged 914 (M = 11.44, SD = 1.17), in grades 10; March 1997)
58. Participants were 77 % Caucasian (n = 130). The
remaining 23 % of the participants (n = 39) were from The MASC is a 10-item, 4-point Likert self-report measure
ethnically diverse backgrounds including Asian, African of childrens anxiety. This measure is a shortened version
Canadian, Hispanic/Latino, First Nations, or Other eth- of the Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children, and is
nicity. Furthermore, 8.5 % of the sample experienced a unidimensional measure that combines the four anxiety
clinically elevated depression symptoms, with scores scales including Physical Symptoms, Social Anxiety, Harm
ranging from 0 to 41 (M = .805), and 16.4 % of the sample Avoidance, and Separation/Panic items. This measure

Cogn Ther Res (2013) 37:97108 101

exhibits good test-retest reliability (March et al. 1999). The instructions, the participants completed several self-report
internal consistency estimate for the MASQ-10 in the questionnaires. The PSQ was completed first, followed by
current sample was .74. the SQC, MASC-10, CDI, and lastly the RS. A minimum
of five research assistants were present at each data col-
Childrens Depression Inventory (CDI; Kovacs 1981) lection, to provide instructions and answer individual
questions. The procedure took approximately 1 h to com-
The CDI is a 27-item, 3-point Likert self-report question- plete. Following participation, the youth were thanked and
naire used to assess childrens behavioural, affective and given a snack or toy for participating.
cognitive symptoms of depression. Children are shown
statements related to their moods and asked to endorse
sentences that best describe them (e.g. Im sad once in a Results
while; I am sad many times; I am sad all the time). This
measure has high internal-consistency and test-retest reli- Development of the Positive Schema Questionnaire
ability, as well as strong convergent and predictive validity
(Carey et al. 1987). The internal consistency estimate for The first aim of the current study was to develop a positive
the CDI in the current sample was .85. schema questionnaire for youth to be considered with
negative schema counterparts (e.g., Schema Questionnaire
Resilience Scale (RS; Wagnild and Young 1993) for Children; Stallard and Rayner 2005) for research and
clinical purposes. The goal was to develop a measure with
The RS is a widely-used 25-item, 7-point Likert ques- sound psychometric properties and potential clinical utility.
tionnaire designed to measure beliefs about ones ability to Based on a review of the literature, a provisional pool of
successfully cope with adversity. Respondents rate how thirty-six items were generated, six items per subscale.
strongly they agree with statements related to resilience Results indicated strong internal reliability of the six pro-
(e.g., I can be on my own if I have to; I usually take posed subscales with Cronbach alphas ranging between .80
things in stride). The scale assesses two domains of and .90. The provisional pool of items were submitted to a
resilience including (1) personal competence, and (2) principal axis factor analysis with varimax rotation. Factor
acceptance of self and life. Higher scores on the scale loadings were as expected, however the connectedness
indicate higher levels of resilience. Psychometric support scale cross-loaded, largely on the trust scale, regardless of
has been found for the internal consistency, reliability, and the number of factors extracted. The connectedness items
concurrent validity of the scale (Wagnild and Young 1993). were subsequently dropped from further analyses. Items
This measure evidenced strong internal consistency within were resubmitted retaining the top five highest loading
the current sample (.93). items. A final set of the four highest loading items were
retained, and a further item was replaced to improve simple
Procedure structure. Results of the final principal axis factor analysis
are reported in Table 1.
Students from participating elementary schools were pro- Extraction of a single factor reflecting a general positive
vided with details about the study and encouraged to take schema accounted for 45.4 % of the variance, yet clear and
an information package and consent form home to their reliable subscales were confirmed. Within the proposed
parents for permission to participate. Of the 965 students five-factor solution, a widely used cutoff of .40 was set as
who were provided with information packages, 269 agreed the loading criteria (Costello and Osborne 2005). Items
to participate in the study. Final sample size decreased to were omitted it they did not load greater than .40 on their
172 due to absences, missing data, and lack of assent to respective factor or cross-loaded greater than .40 on addi-
participate from the youth. Missing data were replaced by tional factors (eigen values: 9.1, 2.0, 1.2, 1.1, .89, .71).
mean values for the participant when less than 15 % of the Alternative factor solutions were examined to determine
data were missing. the best conceptual and empirical fit. Extracting four fac-
Data collection took place within an assigned area of tors resulted in the success and worthiness subscales
each of the four participating schools (e.g., gymnasium, loading on the same factor. Extracting six factors resulted
library, technology room). The rooms were set up with 25 in a sixth factor on which none of the items loaded. Five
Acer Aspire netbook computer stations each equipped with factors appeared as the most conceptually and empirically
a chair, netbook, mouse, and privacy shield. At the sound solution, confirmed by the second smaller break in
beginning of each data collection period the students were the scree plot at five factors accounting for 71.1 % of the
provided with verbal and written information about the variance, an additional 25.7 % variance over and above the
study, and were given an opportunity to consent. Following single general positive schema factor.

102 Cogn Ther Res (2013) 37:97108

Table 1 Principal factor analysis of the final positive schema questionnaire

Scale item Factor loadings M (SD)
1 2 3 4 5

Factor 1: self-efficacy (alpha = .85) 4.5 (.98)

12. I can deal well with difficult situations .71 .21 .11 .20 .13
18. I can adapt to new situations .66 .23 .20 .21 .21
24. I can respond well to challenges .64 .24 .21 .15 .26
36. I can deal with tough things .60 .24 .19 .24 .21
Factor 2: success (alpha = .88) 5.1 (.96)
35. If I try I will succeed .28 .70 .10 .26 .28
23. If I try hard I can usually do well .38 .70 .07 .10 .21
29. I do well when I try my best .18 .69 .04 .35 .14
11. I have the ability to be successful .35 .56 .11 .24 .39
Factor 3: trust (alpha = .82) 4.3 (1.07)
16. I trust other people .15 .24 .83 .09 .12
4. I feel I can depend on people to keep my secrets .07 -.02 .73 .01 .10
10. I feel comfortable depending on other people .19 -.07 .63 .15 .18
34. I feel comfortable telling people important things about myself .18 .22 .56 .25 .28
Factor 4: optimism (alpha = 83) 4.4 (1.00)
19. I usually see the positive side of things .15 .23 .09 .75 .30
13. I know how to find something good in every situation .39 .25 .06 .60 .10
31. When things are bad I can still think of something good .39 .16 .18 .55 .25
7. I believe things will turn out well .18 .26 .30 .51 .18
Factor 5: worthiness (alpha = 86) 4.8 (1.00)
27. I value many things about myself .31 .28 .22 .20 .74
33. I value myself .34 .21 .29 .22 .64
15. I think I have many good qualities .15 .37 .27 .31 .56
3. I believe in myself .18 .21 .28 .27 .46
N = 170, a = .93 for total scale score
Bolded loadings are those comprising the subscale following the factor analysis

To examine potential demographic effects, a series of with hypotheses, a strong negative correlation was found
multivariate tests were examined. First, a 2 sex (m, f) 9 4 between depression and global positive schemas, as well as
age (grades 58) ANOVA was conducted across all inde- all positive schema themes (or subscales), including, self-
pendent variables (five positive schema subscales and the efficacy, success, trust, optimism, and worthiness.
negative schema scale). No significant interaction or main
effects were found. A similar 2 sex (m, f) 9 4 age (grades Unique Contribution of Positive Schemas for Predicting
58) ANOVA was conducted across the dependent mea- Depression
sures (resilience, depression and anxiety symptoms). A
main effect for sex was found with girls reporting more A hierarchical linear regression analysis was computed to
anxiety symptoms than boys, F (1, 162) = 8.10, p \ .01, determine whether positive schemas explain additional
g2 = .05. Subsequent analyses controlled for sex. significant variance in depression, beyond that explained
by negative schemas. The predictor variables were entered
Positive Schemas and Depression in subsequent steps: sex, negative schema total, and posi-
tive schema total. Results indicated that negative schemas
The Relation Between Positive Schemas and Depression predicted an additional 25 % of variance in depressive
symptoms, after controlling for sex (see Table 2, Model 1:
To evaluate the hypothesis that positive schemas would be Total Score Level). Consistent with hypotheses, positive
related to depressive symptoms, Pearson correlations were schemas accounted for an additional and significant 28 %
examined (see Table 2, right-most column). Consistent of variance beyond that accounted for by negative schemas

Cogn Ther Res (2013) 37:97108 103

Table 2 Hierarchical
Variables Model 1: total score level Model 2: subscale level r
regression analyses predicting
depression, anxiety, and DR2 F change b1 DR2 F change b2
Step 1
Sex .00 .02 -.04 .00 .02 -.02 .01
Step 2
Negative schemas .25 54.97*** .36*** .25 54.97 .35*** .49***
Step 3
Positive schemas (total) .28 97.72*** -.55*** .29 20.17 -.64***
Self-efficacy -.04 -.47***
Trust -.13* -.44***
Success -.09 -.53***
Optimism -.12 -.50***
Worthiness .30** -.62***
Step 1
Sex .04 6.10* -.21** .04 6.10 -.19* .19*
Step 2
Negative schemas .05 9.41** .19* .05 9.41 .20* .21**
Step 3
Positive schemas (total) .02 3.81* -.15* .06 2.24 -.20**
Self-efficacy -.22* -.24**
Trust .16 .01
Success .01 -.19*
Optimism -.08 -.19*
Worthiness -.01 -.19*
Step 1
Sex .00 .10 .01 .00 .10 -.01 -.02
Step 2
Negative schemas .00 .57 .12* .00 .57 .11 -.06
Step 3
Positive schemas (total) .46 140.81*** .70*** .50 32.41 .68**
Self-efficacy .41*** .66***
Trust .06 .40***
Success .09 .53***
Optimism .13 .56***
* p B .05; ** p \ .01; Worthiness .16 .57***
*** p \ .001

alone. The total model accounted for 53 % of variance in the subscale level, worthiness emerged as a strong and
depression scores. unique predictor of depression symptoms. The theme of
Hierarchical linear regression analyses were also con- trust was marginally significant.
ducted at the subscale level to evaluate whether specific
schema themes would emerge as unique predictors of Positive Schemas and Anxiety
depressive symptoms among adolescents (see Table 2,
Model 2: Subscale Level). The data were entered in three The Relation Between Positive Schemas and Anxiety
steps: sex, negative schema total and, in the third step, self-
efficacy, success, trust, optimism, and worthiness. The To evaluate relations between positive schemas and anxi-
positive schemas subscales entered at the third step of the ety, Pearson correlation analyses were again conducted
regression accounted for an additional 28 % of variance. At (see Table 2, right-most column). Contrary to hypotheses,

104 Cogn Ther Res (2013) 37:97108

low negative correlations were found between global efficacy, success, trust, optimism, and worthiness. The total
positive schemas and anxiety. Similar relations were found model accounted for 46 % of variance in resilience scores.
between anxiety and the subscales, self-efficacy, success,
optimism, and worthiness. No significant relation was Unique Contribution of Positive Schemas for Predicting
found between anxiety and trust. Resilience

Unique Contribution of Positive Schemas for Predicting A hierarchical linear regression analysis was computed to
Anxiety determine whether positive schemas explain additional
significant variance in resilience, beyond that explained
To determine whether positive schemas explain additional by negative schemas. Neither sex nor negative schemas
significant variance in anxiety, beyond negative schemas, a accounted for significant variance in resilience scores. In
hierarchical linear regression was conducted (see Table 2, the third step of the regression, positive schemas accounted
Model 1: Total Score Level). In the first block, sex for an increased 46 % of variance in resilience (see
accounted for 4 % of variance in anxiety. Negative sche- Table 2).
mas accounted for an increased 5 % of variance in anxiety.
The contribution of positive schemas approached signifi- The Contribution of Individual Schema Themes
cance (p = .05). The total model accounted for 11 % of for Predicting Resilience
variance in anxiety scores.
To evaluate the relative strength of each schema theme in
The Contribution of Individual Schema Themes predicting resilience, a hierarchical linear regression anal-
for Predicting Anxiety ysis was conducted. Positive schemas accounted for an
increased 50 % of variance in resilience. The schema
Another hierarchical linear regression analysis was com- theme of self-efficacy emerged as the strongest predictor of
puted to evaluate whether any particular schema theme resilience in this multivariate context, accounting for 8 %
would account for significant variance in anxiety (see of unique variance in resilience.
Table 2, Model 2: Subscale Level). Again, the data were
entered in three steps, with the schema themes entered
separately in the third step. The third block of the regres- Discussion
sion accounted for an increased 6 % of variance in anxiety,
and the schema theme of Self-Efficacy was found to act as The present study is the first to evaluate the relation of
a significant unique predictor of anxiety scores over neg- specific positive schema themes to psychopathology and
ative schemas.1 resilience in youth. The results of the first empirical
examination of the new PSQ provide convincing evi-
Positive Schemas and Resilience dence of its promise as a psychometrically sound tool for
evaluating positive schemas in youth. The factor analysis
The Relation Between Positive Schemas and Resilience supported 5 of the apriori schema categories including:
self-efficacy, success, worthiness, optimism, and trust.
To evaluate relations between child reported resilience These factors possess good face validity and correlate
and positive schemas, Pearson correlation analyses were significantly with negative cognitive schemas and mea-
conducted (see Table 2, Model 1: Total Score Level). sures of youth emotional functioning including depression,
Consistent with hypotheses, as global positive schemas anxiety, and resilience, and in the directions supported by
increased so too did child-reported resilience. Furthermore, previous research. Furthermore, individual schema themes
significant positive correlations were found between resil- displayed strong predictive validity and differentiated
ience and each positive schema theme, including self- between symptom profiles. Once these results are extended
to a clinical sample, the positive schema profile derived
Positive schemas and resilience are related constructs. To support from the PSQ may have important use in clinical settings
positive schemas as theoretically distinct from resilience, hierarchical
both for assessment of youth vulnerability and strength,
linear regression analyses were conducted controlling for resilience
while regressing (1) depression and (2) anxiety symptoms on positive and for setting and evaluating intervention targets in cog-
schemas. In these analyses, predictor variables were entered in 3 nitive behaviour therapy.
steps: sex, resilience, and positive schemas. In the third step, analyses Consistent with hypotheses, positive schemas contribute
confirmed that positive schemas predict unique variance in depres-
significantly to the prediction of depression, anxiety, and
sion [DR2 = .32, F(1, 166) = .904, p \ .01] and anxiety [DR2 = .02,
F(1, 166) = .049, p \ .01] beyond resilience, suggesting distinct resilience, explaining variance in these constructs beyond
constructs. that explained by negative schemas. These findings support

Cogn Ther Res (2013) 37:97108 105

the theory that positive schemas exist on a separate con- Positive Schemas and Anxiety
tinuum from negative schemas (e.g., MacLeod and Moore
2000), and underscore the importance of considering low In an evaluation of relations between positive schemas and
levels of positive schemas as an important diathesis to anxiety, contrary to hypotheses, global positive schemas
psychopathology. Furthermore, the finding that specific were significantly associated with anxiety. Interestingly,
positive schema themes evidence unique associations with when examining relations between specific schema themes
each outcome provides support for content specificity and anxiety, a negative relationship was found between
models (Beck 1976) within the positive schema domain. self-efficacy, worthiness, success, and optimism and anxi-
ety symptoms. Consistent with hypotheses, specificity
Positive Schemas and Depression emerged in a multivariate model with only self-efficacy
found to account for significant variance in anxiety beyond
Consistent with hypotheses and past research (e.g., other positive and negative schemas. This finding is con-
Jaenicke et al. 1987; Prieto et al. 1992; Shirk et al. 1998; sistent with research suggesting that cognitions related to
Whitman and Leitenberg 1990), global positive schemas, coping self-efficacy, control, and self-mastery may be most
as well as particular schema themes of worthiness, salient for understanding anxiety symptoms (e.g., Bogels
optimism, trust, self-efficacy, and success, were signifi- and Zigterman 2000; Matsuo and Arai 1998; Muris 2002;
cantly negatively related to depression scores in youth. A Yue 1996).
particular strength of the current study is the multivariate Taken together, these results suggest that cognitive
approach in which positive and negative schemas were theories of anxiety would benefit from incorporating
jointly considered in models of risk. Further analyses positive schemas into models of risk. Theory suggests that
were conducted to examine whether positive schemas positive cognitions may help to differentiate anxiety from
contribute to the cognitive vulnerability to depression, depression (e.g., Tripartite model; Clark and Watson
beyond negative schemas. Importantly, positive schemas 1991). Although these data suggest that global positive
were associated with more variance in depression scores schema themes are more strongly related to depression than
than negative schemas, specifically explaining an addi- anxiety, for youth, it may be the specific positive schema
tional 28 % of the variance in our model. This finding is themes that differentially predict the disorders, with
consistent with past research which highlights the schema themes of worthiness linked to depression and
important role of global positive schemas (e.g., Whitman themes of self-efficacy linked to anxiety.
and Leitenberg) and positive cognitive constructs in
depression in youth (e.g., Bandura et al. 1999; Cole Positive Schemas and Resilience
1991; Muris 2002; Puskar et al. 1990), and further sug-
gests that lacking sufficiently positive global self-sche- Consistent with hypotheses, global positive schemas and
mas may at times serve as a stronger predictor for particular schema themes were also positively associated
depression in youth than the characteristic negative with child-reported resilience. This finding is consistent
cognitive bias. with theory that positive self-views may serve a protective
Consistent with research implicating low self-worth as a role, potentially contributing to an increased sense of well
vulnerability factor to depression (e.g., Cole et al. 1999, being and competence. Intriguingly, negative schemas did
2009; Garber and Hilsman 1992; Garber et al. 1997; not account for significant variance in resilience, whereas
Lumley and Harkness 2007), the schema theme of wor- positive schemas did (accounting for approximately 50 %
thiness was found most strongly associated with depression of the variance in each of our resilience models). Impor-
symptoms in our sample. Interestingly, this result is con- tantly, having low levels of negative schemas may not be
gruent with Becks content specificity hypothesis, which sufficient for positive emotional functioning. In fact, these
theorizes that low self-views are characteristic of depres- data suggest that positive (versus negative) schemas may
sion (Clark et al. 1989, 1990). Positive schemas, although be most instrumental in promoting resilience in the face of
theorized to lie on a separate continuum from negative life stress.
schemas, may create depression vulnerability through Self-efficacy emerged as the schema theme most strongly
similar mechanisms. For example, low positive schemas associated with resilience. It is not surprising that the belief
may impact interpretations of positive events, with a lens in ones ability to control outcomes may increase ability to
that does not enable positive experiences to positively cope with life stress. Consistently, self-perceptions of effi-
influence views of the self, the world, or the future. These cacy have been theorized to influence the way one responds
results highlight the importance of more fully incorporating to adversity by impacting the way a person copes, appraises
positive schemas into cognitive models of depression to the situation, and later, how he/she reacts emotionally
illuminate mechanisms of risk. (Bandura 1982). Thus, those with higher self-efficacy are

106 Cogn Ther Res (2013) 37:97108

more likely to use effort to react to the demands of the situ- resilience. Findings that positive schemas predict additional
ation and as a result may not experience as much distress. variance in childhood outcomes emphasize the importance
There are several limitations to the current study that of incorporating positive schemas into cognitive models of
provide important implications for future research. First, psychopathology. The finding that positive schemas appear
the predictor and outcome variables were measured at one to be a stronger associate of depression symptoms than
time point, negating the possibility of evaluating the negative schemas indicates that positive schemas may play
theoretically implied causal relations. As such, careful lon- an even more important role than negative schemas in the
gitudinal research will be required to establish the unfolding early detection of what, for many youth, develops into
of these important relations in youth between schemas and chronic mood psychopathology.
symptoms. If replicated in a clinical sample, the positive schema
Sample size was not sufficiently large to adequately findings here may have implications for intervention with
evaluate gender, ethnicity, and age differences. Sex anal- youth. These results emphasize the importance of a thera-
yses revealed higher anxiety rates for girls than boys, and peutic focus not only on identifying and targeting negative
sex accounted for significant variance in anxiety scores, cognitions but, perhaps even more importantly, on the
indicating that girls may be more vulnerable to anxiety development of positive cognitions. While decreasing
than boys. While it is suspected that significant ethnicity, negative schemas through therapy may play an important
sex and age differences exist in the development and pre- role in decreasing aversive symptoms, the current results
sentation of positive schema themes, the current study did suggests that developing positive schemas may be neces-
not have sufficient power to evaluate fine-grained questions sary to produce long-term mental health and resilient
of risk and resilience, an important area for future coping strategies in the face of future stressors.
Thirdly, while the CDI, MASC, and RS possess adequate Acknowledgments This research was supported by the Ontario
Mental Health Foundation New Investigator Fellowship (second
reliability and validity, these measures are self-report and author). We are very grateful to the Wellington Catholic District
may be impacted by youth difficulties reporting internal School Board for their support of our research and to the youth and
states or by mood or social desirability biases. Although parents who participated in this project. We are also grateful to all the
research highlights the limitations of self-report measures of members of the Resilient Youth Research Group for their research
efforts in the schools and in particular to Rachel Tomlinson and
psychopathology (e.g., Segal 1988), other research suggests Bethany Lerman for their extraordinary organizational skills and
that children may be the best reporters of their internalizing valuable contributions to many aspects of this project. We also wish
symptoms (Edelbrock et al. 1986; Saylor et al. 1984) and to thank Wray Hutton for his guidance on appropriate computer
thus, childrens perceptions are valued as the key aspect of infrastructure and his computer-programming expertise.
this inquiry. Furthermore, self-report bias cannot easily
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