Category: Child / Adolescent - Depression
Rates of depression during childhood tend to be low; however, the prevalence of depression increases steadily during adolescence (Hankin et al., 1998). Thus, it is necessary to examine factors throughout development that may influence risk for depression. One known risk factor is trait negative affect (NA). Depressed youth exhibit higher levels of NA compared to non-depressed peers (Joiner, Catanzaro, & Laurent, 1996). Further, the cognitive vulnerability model of depression suggests that negative thoughts about the self, world, and future confer vulnerability for depression (Beck, 1967). Stressful situations elicit these negative cognitions, and increase the chance that an individual may have a maladaptive response to the negative cognitions. One maladaptive response is rumination, defined as the cognitive process of focusing on distress and its causes and consequences. Previous research suggests that negative cognitions may elicit a self-focused or ruminative cycle, leading to an increase in depressive symptoms (Pyszczynski & Greenberg, 1987). Thus, the current study aimed to assess the relation between NA, negative cognitions, rumination, and depressive symptoms in a sample of adolescents. We hypothesized that the relation between trait NA and depressive symptoms would be jointly mediated by negative cognitions and rumination.
Participants were 141 community adolescents from the Pacific Northwest (52.1% female; Mage = 12.88). Adolescents completed measures assessing trait NA, trait rumination, and depressive symptoms. During the laboratory visit, adolescents went through a 5-minute stressor paradigm in which they completed an unsolvable anagram task. Negative cognitions were measured using the Rotter Incomplete Sentences task before and after the stressor. A paired samples t-test indicated a significant difference between negative thoughts pre- and post-stressor, t(118) = -4.19, p < .001). The effect of trait NA on depressive symptoms, through negative cognitions and rumination was assessed through a mediation analysis. Controlling for pre-stressor negative thoughts, age, and gender, the indirect pathway from trait NA to concurrent depressive symptoms through negative thoughts and rumination was significant, 95% CI [.08, .63]. Further, the indirect pathway from trait NA to depressive symptoms through rumination was also significant, 95% CI [.02, 1.64], while the indirect effect from trait NA to depressive symptoms through negative thoughts was non-significant, 95% CI [-.15, .75]. Thus, youth with higher trait NA reported more negative thoughts following a stressor, which was associated with increased rumination and lead to higher levels of depressive symptoms.
Jaclyn Aldrich– Doctoral Student, Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, Washington
Madeline Wielgus– Doctoral Student, Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, Washington
Caroline Walter– Undergraduate Student, Seattle Pacific University
Amy Mezulis– Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology, Seattle Pacific University, Washington