Category: Adult Depression / Dysthymia
High negative emotions (NE) and low positive emotions (PE) are trait vulnerability factors for depression in adulthood (Rothbart, 2007), but cognitive processes that transform NE and PE vulnerabilities into depression symptoms are poorly identified. The cognitive processes of brooding and positive rumination are two supported mechanisms through which high NE and low PE predict depression. Brooding describes rumination in response to NE (Treynor et al., 2003), while positive rumination describes rumination in response to PE (Feldman et al., 2008). Since brooding and positive rumination are both forms of rumination, they may represent a common cognitive process that determines vulnerability to or resilience against depression based on the type of emotions that the rumination amplifies.
The current prospective study examined whether brooding and positive rumination were best statistically modeled as a shared cognitive process on distinct emotional content. We predicted that brooding and positive rumination would be best modeled as distinct but related factors. We then examined brooding and positive rumination as cognitive mediators of the relationships between trait NE and PE and future depression symptoms. We predicted that greater brooding and less positive rumination would mediate the relationships between greater trait NE and less trait PE to predict greater depression symptoms. We conducted confirmatory factor analysis to compare models of brooding and positive rumination as distinct constructs, the same construct, and distinct but related constructs to determine the best fitting model. We then conducted structural equation modeling to examine brooding and positive rumination as mediators of the relationships between NE and PE in predicting depression. Gender, age, baseline depression symptoms, and the opposite forms of trait affect and rumination were included as covariates.
Participants were 321 adults recruited in a United States academic setting. Participants completed self-report measures on trait emotions, cognitive responses, and depression at two assessment points with a seven week delay between administrations. Results supported a best fitting model of brooding and positive rumination as distinct but related constructs (χ = 195.07, Δχ = 8.78, p < .001, CFI = .91, RMSEA = .07). Results also supported that greater trait NA and less trait PA independently predicted greater depression symptoms through greater brooding (βNA = .08, p = .007; βPA = -.02, p = .038), but positive rumination was not a significant mediator. Brooding was more predictive of future depression than positive rumination, suggesting that brooding may be a more salient target for clinical intervention. Findings enhance understanding of the dual impacts of rumination in the relationship between trait emotions and depression. Rumination may be a risk factor and a protective factor, enabling people who brood to redirect their rumination to positive content and reduce their risk of developing or maintaining depression.
Clinical Psychology Intern
VA Puget Sound Health Care System