Partner criticism during acute-phase cognitive therapy for recurrent major depressive disorder

Jeffrey R. Vittengl, Lee Anna Clark, Michael E. Thase, Robin B Jarrett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Many patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) are married or in marriage-like relationships that could influence treatment process and outcomes. We clarified relations of patient-reported criticism from partners (perceived criticism) and criticism of partners with psychosocial functioning and changes in cognitive therapy (CT) for depression. Partnered outpatients (N = 219) received a 12-week CT protocol and completed measures repeatedly. As hypothesized, perceived criticism and criticism of partners correlated with personality (e.g., perceived criticism: trait mistrust, self-harm; criticism of partners: negative temperament, aggression), social-interpersonal problems (perceived criticism: cold and overly nurturant behavior; criticism of partners: vindictive and domineering behavior; both measures: poor adjustment in partnered and family relationships), cognitive content (both measures: negative failure attributions, dysfunctional attitudes), and depressive symptom intensity (both measures), although effect sizes were small-moderate. Both criticism measures decreased little during CT and remained elevated compared to community norms, despite the fact that relations between the criticism measures and depressive symptoms included both stable trait and more transient state components. From these findings, we speculate that some patients with MDD elicit or amplify criticism in ways that harm their relationships and psychosocial functioning and may benefit from additional or strategic treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)48-56
Number of pages9
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
StatePublished - Feb 2019


  • Cognitive therapy
  • Criticism of spouse or partner
  • Depression
  • Perceived criticism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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