Problem-solving deficits in depressed children, adolescents, and adults

Leonard A. Doerfler, University of Massachusetts Medical School
Larry L. Mullins, University of Missouri-Columbia
Nora J. Griffin, University of Missouri-Columbia
Lawrence J. Siegel, University of Florida
C. Steven Richards, University of Missouri-Columbia

At the time of publication, Leonard Doerfler was not yet affiliated with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.


Recent research has emphasized the importance of interpersonal problems with depression. It has been hypothesized that deficits in interpersonal problem-solving skills may account for many of these problems. Three studies that examined the relationship between problem-solving skills and depression are reported. Problem-solving skills among children, adolescents, and adults were assessed by the Means-Ends Problem Solving Test. Contrary to prediction, there were no differences in problem-solving skills between depressed and nondepressed groups; these findings were consistent across each age group. The external validity of such paper-and-pencil measures of problem solving is questioned; it is suggested that future research focus on how depressed individuals solve real-life problems.