The Hopelessness Theory of Depression: A Quarter-Century in Review

Richard T. Liu, Evan M. Kleiman, Bridget A. Nestor, Shayna M. Cheek

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


Since the formulation of the hopelessness theory of depression (Psychological Review, 96, 1989, 358) a quarter-century ago, it has garnered considerable interest. The current article presents a systematic review of this theory, including its subsequent elaborations (Rose and Abramson's [Rochester Symposium of Developmental Psychopathology, 1992, University of Rochester Press, Rochester, NY] developmental elaboration; Abela and Sarin's [Cognitive Therapy and Research, 26, 2002, 811] weakest link approach; Panzarella, Alloy and Whitehouse's [Cognitive Therapy and Research, 30, 2006, 307] expansion of the hopelessness theory; and the hopelessness theory of suicide (Suicide Science: Expanding Boundaries, 2000, Kluwer Academic, Boston]), followed by recommendations for future study. Although empirical support was consistently found for several major components of the hopelessness theory, further work is required assessing this theory in relation to clinically significant phenomena. Among the most significant hindrances to advancement in this area is the frequent conceptual confusion between the hopelessness theory and the reformulated learned helplessness theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-365
Number of pages21
JournalClinical Psychology: Science and Practice
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology


  • Cognitive vulnerability
  • Depression
  • Hopelessness theory
  • Inferential style


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