Nearly 20 percent of adolescents will have experienced a major depressive episode by the time they reach the age of 18, with twice as many girls becoming depressed as boys. “One possible explanation for the emergent sex difference in depression is a sex difference in rumination, which is the tendency to respond to negative events with perseverative attention on negative stimuli,” said Jordan Simonson, M.A., of the Department of Clinical Psychology at Seattle Pacific University and lead author of a recent study examining the differences in rumination between males and females. “Females report greater rumination than males, and this sex difference partially accounts for the sex difference in depression.” Simonson and a team of researchers sought to determine what role gender plays in trait rumination and state rumination, response to a particular event, in teens.
Simonson noted that although rumination is more highly associated with female gender roles, and is a predictor of depression, it is not always a negative factor. “Evidence suggests that while some patterns of gender role identification may be a vulnerability factor for psychosocial problems such as depression, others may be protective,” said Simonson, commenting on the social benefits of rumination for women. He added, “Rather than divert their attention away from emotionally and interpersonally salient events, females are encouraged to be emotionally sensitive and attuned to their own and others’ responses to such situations.” Simonson looked at over 100 adolescents and found that females were more likely to ruminate than males, but only in regards to specific stressors. “As hypothesized, we found that femininity partially accounted for the sex difference in trait interpersonal, but not achievement rumination.” Simonson added, “The current study demonstrated that the feminine gender role identification accounted for the greater trait interpersonal rumination in females, and continued to form an indirect pathway between sex and state interpersonal rumination prospectively.” Simonson concluded, “The greater likeliness for females to experience vulnerability-stressor match over time is a potential contributor to the sex difference in depression.”
Simonson, Jordan, Amy Mezulis, and Katey Davis. “Socialized to Ruminate? Gender Role Mediates the Sex Difference in Rumination for Interpersonal Events.” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 30.9 (2011): 937-59. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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