Category: Child / Adolescent - Depression
Low positive emotionality (PE) represents a temperamental vulnerability to depression in youth. However, limited research has examined the mechanisms linking PE to youth depressive symptoms. Based on integrated cognitive-affective models of depression, adaptive emotion regulation (ER) strategies represent central mechanisms in the relationships between temperament and depressive symptoms. Specifically, the adaptive ER cognitive strategies of reappraisal, problem solving, acceptance, positive refocusing, distraction, and forgetting are supported to predict greater emotional wellbeing and fewer depressive symptoms (Aldao et al., 2010; Garnefski & Kraaij, 2006). As a result, individual and overall use of adaptive ER strategies may contribute understanding to vulnerability and resilience pathways that predict youth against depressive symptoms.
The current study investigated whether adaptive ER strategies mediated the association between PE and depressive symptoms in a large community sample of Dutch youth in Belgium, using a cross-sectional design. First, we hypothesized that low levels of PE would be associated with greater depressive symptoms, above and beyond the effects of temperamental negative emotionality (NE) and effortful control (EC). Second, we hypothesized that a deficit in overall adaptive ER strategies would be associated with greater depressive symptoms. Third, we hypothesized that greater use of each adaptive ER strategy would be associated with fewer depressive symptoms. Finally, we hypothesized that greater overall adaptive ER strategy use would mediate the relationship between low PE and greater depressive symptoms. Given known gender and age differences in youth temperament, ER, and depressive symptomatology (Garnefski & Kraaij, 2006; Hyde et al., 2008) we controlled for gender and age across analyses. We also controlled for NE and EC in all PE analyses to ensure that findings did not represent the joint contributions of distinct temperamental traits.
Participants were 1655 Dutch youth (54% female; 7-16 years, M=11.41, SD=1.88) who completed the Positive and Negative Affectivity Schedule for Children (Laurent et al., 1999) to assess temperament, the FEEL-kj (Braet et al., 2013) to assess adaptive ER strategies, and the Child Depression Inventory (Timbremont & Braet, 2002) to assess depressive symptoms. Results revealed that low PE uniquely predicted greater youth depressive symptoms as mediated by lower overall adaptive ER strategies. In particular, the ER strategies of distraction, positive refocusing, and forgetting mediated the relationships between PE and depressive symptoms. Findings highlight the need to consider temperamental PE and adaptive ER strategies to enrich understanding of risk and protective factors in predicting the development of depressive symptoms in youth. From a clinical perspective, identifying adaptive ER cognitive strategies may enable more individually tailored mental health treatments for youth with temperamental vulnerabilities to depression.
Clinical Psychology Intern
VA Puget Sound Health Care System