Depression States, Behavioral, and Cognitive Components in Developmental age: factorial analysis of a short assessment tool

Carlo Pruneti, Sara Guidotti


Objective: Detecting clinically significant symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) in childhood and adolescence is not easy. For this, the Depression State Scale (DSS) (a 42-items questionnaire that evaluates Depression, Anxiety and problems in Interpersonal relationships) has been developed and it seems to be able to detect clinically significant symptoms of depression. The main purpose of this study is to investigate a possible alternative subscale structure using the statistical process of factor analysis.

Materials and methods: The DSS was administered to 601 students: 329 females, average age=13.1, SD = 0.7 and 272 males, average age=12.9, SD = 0.87. Principal component analysis with Varimax rotation was used to investigate the factor structure of the scale. The reliability of the new scales, built based on the results obtained, was then calculated. Analysis of variance was conducted with both new and original scales to assess whether significant gender differences emerged.

Results: The factors that emerged reflect the DSM-5 criteria of MDD. The expectation of academic achievement is able to significantly influence anxiety and mood; the components of the depression seem to be closely related to the prevailing cognitive styles. Moreover, school performance and interpersonal relationships seem to influence each other. Finally, the school environment is generally seen as more repressive and strenuous rather than welcoming and stimulating.

Conclusion: The DSS is able to detect the main symptoms of MDD and to describe the most affected psychopathological dimension. Finally, it emerged that the student's representation of the school can influence not only psychological well-being but also social functioning.


Developmental Psychopathology; Major Depressive Disorder; Anxiety and Depression; Psychological Assessment; Clinical Psychology.

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