Thesis Title

Art Representations as Functions of Depressive State: Longitudinal Studies in Chronic Childhood and Adolescent Depression

Graduation Date

Summer 1989

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

Degree Granting Institution

Notre Dame de Namur University

Program Name

Art Therapy


The artwork of 10 boys and girls, ages 11-15, was used in an exploratory study using a repeated measures design to investigate intra-subject variations in art representations as functions of varying depression levels. It was hypothesized that depressed children will produce idiosyncratic art representations for depressive state as functions of individual character traits and developmental histories. The Diagnostic Drawing Series (DDS) and Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) were administered eight times for each S over two to four months. CES-D scores established varying levels of depressive state for each period in which the DDS was administered. Three independent raters used the Diagnostic Analysis Form (DAF) of the DDS to evaluate each of the series' three drawings. Interrater consensus established presence or absence of each of 47 mutually exclusive variables from the DAF.

Results were confounded by sample and instrument inadequacies but suggested idiosyncratic art representations for depressive state in children and a positive relationship between less area of paper used for artwork and increased levels of depressive affect. Absolute number of diagnostic indicators appeared to be positively related (p < .10) to increased mean depression scores. Significant correlations were found between CES-D scores and gender (p < .05) as well as CES-D scores and age (p < 01). Problems in subjective comparisons of depressed vs. nondepressed DDS pairs were explored, as were objective DAF evaluations. Results of masked depression, as measured by the CES-D self-report, were discussed, and numerous hypotheses and implications for further research with, the DDS were presented.