With the earlier onset of major depressive disorder that ranges between the ages of 15 and 25 years and high prevalence of depressive symptomatology among university students, studies including a South African university cohort are warranted. Furthermore, there is a need for studies that include non-cognitive aspects when studying executive functioning and depressive symptomatology. Temperament dimensions and resilience are considered to be both putative risk factors and protective factors in the onset and recurrence of depression and have been associated with executive functioning. The primary aim of the current study was to investigate the associations between executive functioning, temperament and resilience, and depressive symptomatology. The secondary aim was to explore the potential predictors (depressive symptomatology, trait-related temperament and state-related resilience) of executive functioning. The methodology employed was quantitative in nature and a correlational design was used. Sampling was based on convenience sampling. A total of 135 participants participated and completed assessment protocols. The comprehensive assessment battery consisted of the University of Pennsylvania Neuropsychological Test Battery, the Beck Depression Inventory-II, the Temperament and Character Inventory–Revised and the Predictive 6-Factor Resilience Scale. Correlational analyses, Wilcoxon Two-Sample Test, the Kruskal-Wallis Test and stepwise regression analysis were used. Results indicated significant correlations between executive functioning and depressive symptomatology, executive functioning and resilience as well as executive functioning and temperament. Significant correlations were also found between depressive symptomatology and resilience, and depressive symptomatology and temperament. Regression analysis found total depressive symptomatology and cognitive-affective features of depression to be predictive of accuracy of performance on certain executive functioning tasks such as mental abstraction. The current study also found novelty-seeking (temperament) to be predictive of both accuracy and performance speed on executive functioning tests. Regression analysis did not find overall resilience to be a predictor of executive functioning.
In the context of high demand for services at student counselling centres, broader knowledge on the role of depressive symptomatology, temperament and resilience on executive functioning is warranted. An integrated approach to understanding the association between depression and executive functioning, allows for a greater therapeutic focus on individual temperament dispositions and the enhancement of resilience.