Study: Examines Stress, Rumination and Depression

How often do you reminisce about your adolescent years? 

The word “reminisce” infers a pleasant experience. Don’t you think? Consider meeting with childhood friends, paging through scrapbooks, attending a family reunion…or just daydreaming about days gone by. We might recall great teachers, school plays, dances, sporting events, and graduations. But for as many wonderful memories one might have about their adolescent years, there can be and often are just as many stressful memories.

For women remembering the adolescent years they may recall being bullied, suffering from acne, struggling with grades, experiencing problems with their menstrual cycle, fretting about socializing with the opposite sex, determining their sexual orientation…the list goes on.

Men, too, may recall stressful memories regarding their adolescent years dealing with bullying, team sports, physical issues like weight, facial hair, voice change or acne, dating relationships, sexual orientation…again, the list goes on.

So does stress experienced in adolescence have long term affects?

Researchers at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, asked this question.  Their research was published online this month in the Clinical Psychological Science Journal: Stress and the Development of Cognitive Vulnerabilities to Depression Explain Sex Differences in Depressive Symptoms During Adolescence.  The lead author was Jessica Hamilton of Temple University. They conducted what is referred to as a multi-wave study with the following parameters:

  • 382 boys and girls participated
  • the adolescents completed initial evaluations of their cognitive vulnerabilities and their depressive symptoms
  • Each received a three follow-up assessments with each were spaced seven months apart

Study’s findings…

As reported by PsychCentral:

  • As expected, teens who reported higher levels of interpersonal dependent stress showed higher levels of negative cognitive style and rumination at later assessments. 
  • This finding was confirmed even after the researchers took initial levels of cognitive vulnerabilities, depressive symptoms, and sex into account. 
  • Girls tended to show more depressive symptoms at follow-up assessments than did boys — while boys’ symptoms seemed to decline from the initial assessment to follow-up, girls’ symptoms did not. 
  • Researchers also discovered that girls were exposed to a greater number of interpersonal dependent stressors over time. 
  • Investigators believe this observation shows that it is this exposure to stressors that maintained girls’ higher levels of rumination and, thus, their risk for depression over time.

    The researchers emphasize that the link is not driven by reactivity to stress; girls were not any more reactive to the stressors that they experienced than were boys. 

Some closing thoughts…

For sure growing up in today’s world brings many challenges, even when children are being raised in a stable and healthy family unit. Family life can be complicated by health issues, divorce, and parent’s jobs or lack of same. Stress is part of life, both interpersonal dependent stress as well as non-dependent interpersonal stress.

This study goes a long way in starting a conversation so that young people can learn how to deal with stress and ruminate less. This is particularly important for teen-age girls.  Additionally Jessica Hamilton explained to PsychCentral: “Parents, educators, and clinicians should understand that girls’ greater exposure to interpersonal stressors places them at risk for vulnerability to depression and ultimately, depression itself.”

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