Measuring Trait-Depressive Mood in Adolescents with the Depression Adjective Check Lists

Article excerpt

Self-report instruments for the measurement of affect that have a "today" focus are useful in the measurement of transient mood, as well as the immediate effects of a large number of environmental (internal and external) influences, and the daily monitoring of mood. Many occasions arise, however, when a longer time focus for the mood measure is required. The study of issues in personality development, the investigation of persistent mood-related attitudes, and making clinical decisions regarding diagnosis and treatment presuppose an instrument with a longer or a more generalized time orientation. In addition to a suitable time set, the ideal instrument for measuring trait mood should be acceptably reliable and valid, be relatively brief, and accepted by subjects. The availability of alternate forms would be an additional attraction. Although meeting the reliability and validity criteria, and to some extent the brevity criterion, several of the instruments used for trait mood measurement (e.g., Beck Depression Inventory (Beck, Ward, Mendelson, Mock, & Erbaugh, 1961), Self-rating Depression Scale (Zung, 1965), Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (Radloff, 1977), and the Children's Depression Inventory (Kovacs, 1983) contain content that seems to be overly pathological for use with nonreferred populations. Also, each of them contains only a few items that measure mood, focusing more on the comprehensive syndrome of depression.

The Depression Adjective Check Lists (DACL; Lubin, 1981; Lubin, 1994) meet several of the above criteria, including alternate forms. Until recently only the state form ("how you feel today") of the DACL was available (Lubin, Swearngin, & Seaton, 1992). Two recent studies report on the use of the trait form ("how you generally feel"). One of them used the trait DACL to conduct a community survey of adults (DeSouza, Lubin, & Whitlock, 1991), and another reported on psychometric characteristics of the DACL with Canadian elderly (Beckingham & Lubin, 1991). Reliability and validity of the trait form with these adult populations were at acceptable levels.

Although a trait measure of mood would seem to be useful with various age groups, potential contributions to an increased understanding of adolescence seem particularly promising. The state form of the DACL has been used with adolescents (Bascuas, 1982; Burton, 1987; Carey, Kelley, Buss, & Scott, 1986; Doerr, 1984; Gourdine, 1987; Kienhorst, DeWilde, VanDenBout, Diekstra, & Wolters, 1990; McKinney, 1979; Rohde, 1981; Sussman, Inoff-Germain, Nottelmann, Loriaux, Cutler, & Chrousos, 1987; and Teichman, Barnea, & Ravav, 1989), indicating the general acceptability of the instrument to this population. The purpose of this study, therefore, is to determine the reliability and validity of the trait form ("how you generally feel") of the DACL with adolescents. As the DACL comprises two separate sets of lists, the project was conducted as two studies: Study 1 employed Set 1 (A, B, D, C) and Study 2 employed Set 2 (E, F, G) of the trait form of the DACL.

STUDY 1

Method

Subjects. One hundred ninety-nine students in Grade 7 (40 males, M = 13.26 years, SD = 1.33; 25 females, M = 13.04 years, SD = .73), Grade 8 (36 males, M = 14.41 years, SD = 1.87; 34 females, M = 14.21 years, SD = 1.03), Grade 9 (34 males, M = 15.29 years, SD = 1.62, 30 females, M = 15.20 years, SD = 1.27), in a junior-senior high school of a moderate size midwestern city served as subjects. The white/non-white (predominantly black) ratio was approximately 75/25 at each grade, except for Grade 7 where the non-white percentage was 18. Students were predominantly from lower middle-class families.

Instruments. The trait form of Set 1 (lists A, B, C, and D) of the Depression Adjective Check Lists (DACL; Lubin, 1981) was used. Each of the lists contains 32 nonrecurring adjectives, 22 with depressive connotations and 10 with nondepressive connotations. …