Quiz Essay Example

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What is the diathesis/stress model? How might it be used to explain psychopathology?

The term diathesis stress model (Ingram & Luxton, 2005) refers to a theoretical approach that posits that individuals have pre-existing vulnerabilities that contribute to depressive symptoms and diagnoses only in the presence of life stress (Abela, Aydin, & Auerbach, 2006; Eberhart, Auerbach, Bigda-Peyton, & Abela, 2011). The diathesis, or a predisposition to something, interacts with the related stress response of the individual (Belsky & Pluess, 2009). Belsky and Pluess (2009) described that central to this model, is the view that some individuals, due to a “vulnerability” in their make-up, are disproportionately likely to be adversely affected by an environmental stressor. These “vulnerabilities” could be behavioral/ temperamental in character (e.g., difficult temperament), physiological or endophenotypic in nature (e.g. highly physiologically reactive), environmental, or genetic in origin. Examples of stressors include, but are not limited, to the following: child maltreatment, insensitive parenting, access to healthcare and education, or untimely incidents/injury (Belsky & Pluess, 2009).

The diathesis stress model is useful in making sense of the interplay of the environment (i.e. nature versus nurture debate) in how susceptible a client is to developing a psychological disorder through the lifespan. It assists in identifying and explaining why some people are more “at-risk” for developing a disorder (Eberhart & Hammen, 2010). Moreover, the diathesis-stress model helps to explain why persons who experience the same environmental stressors can react significantly differently to those stressors depending upon their genetic predisposition. This model asserts that if the combination of the predisposition and the stress exceeds a threshold, a person will develop a disorder (Eberhart & Hammen, 2010). Furthermore, Eberhart and Hammen (2010) identified the diathesis-stress model as a psychological therapy which explains that pre-existing vulnerabilities sometimes lead to the development of psychopathology.


Belsky, J., & Pluess, M. (2009). Beyond Diathesis Stress: Differential susceptibility to

environmental influences. Psychological Bulletin, 135(6), 885-908.

Abela, J., Aydin, C., & Auerbach, R. P. (2006). Operationalizing the “vulnerability”

and “stress” components of the hopelessness theory of depression: A multiwave longitudinal study. Behavior Research and Therapy, 44, 1565-1583.

Eberhart, N., Auerbach, R. P., Bigda-Peyton, J., & Abela, J. (2011). Maladaptive

schemas and depression: Tests of stress generation and Diathesis-Stress Models. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 30(1), 70-104.

Eberhart, N., & Hammen, C. (2010). Interpersonal style, stress, and depression: An

examination of transactional and Diathesis-Stress models. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 29(1), 23-38.

Ingram, R. E., & Luxton, D. D. (2005). Vulnerability-stress models. In B. L. Hankin &

J. R. Z. Abela (Eds.), Development of Psychopathology: A Vulnerability- Stress Perspective (pp. 32-46). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.