Dream motifs: A comparison of dream content for depressed and non-depressed adolescents

Joann Maria Calderone Galley, Pace University


The purpose of the present investigation was to examine the relationship between dream content and depression in a non-clinical adolescent population. Previous research on adults indicates that depressed patients dream in a different way than non-depressed individuals. Thus, one study showed non-depressed divorcing women having longer dream reports which dealt with negatively toned affect, had a wider time perspective, and included the self in the marital role, compared to depressed subjects. Other studies show depressed patients' dreams dealt with past events; had a greater proportion of unhappy to happy emotions experienced by the dreamer; and included more events involving the effort exerted by inanimate objects. The present empirical investigation extends the literature by attempting to determine whether dream content for adolescents is likewise dictated by their present psychological state, and if so, in what ways. A depressive self-report measure, the CES-DC, together with a dream questionnaire developed by Foulkes, a dream researcher, were distributed to approximately 150 ninth through twelfth grade students in a Westchester high school. The dreams were then analyzed through use of the Foulkes' Manual for a Scoring System for Children's Dreams, Revised (1971), a content-analysis checklist which relied on previous research for components and conceptualization. Actual frequency counts for two groups (depressed and non-depressed) were tabulated for ability to remember a dream, pictorial vs. verbal reports, and dream content categories, in same sex comparisons. A chi square analysis was also applied to dream content to discover any statistically significant differences. The results indicated that only one factor was significantly greater for depressed subjects: the lack of dreamer control over the events, and outcome, of the dream. Thus, for depressed subjects, dream activity and outcome was controlled either by other humans or by outside forces to a significantly greater degree than for non-depressed subjects (p $<$.05). There were no significant differences in remembering dreams, method of describing them, or for other dream content, including hostile affect; dreamer versus other human control; negative outcome; presence or absence of locomotion, and, if present, movement, control, and destination of the locomotion; object relations, including whether dream characters attacked and/or withdrew from other characters or objects, or approached them; and the presence or absence of parents and/or romantic partners and the dreamer's response to them.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Galley, Joann Maria Calderone, "Dream motifs: A comparison of dream content for depressed and non-depressed adolescents" (1994). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI9501853.



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