A sizable literature now exists documenting a strong association between exposure to major life events and the subsequent onset of Major Depressive Disorder (Monroe, Slavich, & Georgiades, 2008). Stressors of this type can be serious and include specific events such as the death of a spouse or a financially devastating job loss. Despite this robust association between stress and depression, some people who experience stress never become depressed. At the same time, other people experience stress and go on to develop recurrent forms of depression. Why are some people resilient in the face of stress while others are not? The present talk reviews recent research from our group that addresses these questions.
First, we review findings demonstrating how differences in developmental history, such as exposure to early parental loss or separation, may affect levels of risk and resilience in adulthood. We focus specifically on the finding that individuals who experience early parental loss or separation appear to be selectively sensitized to subsequent interpersonal loss (Slavich, Monroe, & Gotlib, 2009). Next, we discuss research showing how particular types of stress, such as targeted rejection, may deplete social support, thereby reducing resilience and increasing risk for depression (slavich, Thornton, Torres, Monroe, & Goflib, 2009). Finally, we discuss preliminary work on how psychobiological and genetic factors may contribute to risk and resilience following exposure to stress in depression. These findings represent cutting-edge research in the areas of life stress and depression, and are discussed in terms of advancing theory and clinical interventions for the disorder.