Academic journal article Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology

Does Brooding Rumination Moderate the Stress to Depression Relationship Similarly for Chinese and New Zealand Adolescents?

Academic journal article Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology

Does Brooding Rumination Moderate the Stress to Depression Relationship Similarly for Chinese and New Zealand Adolescents?

Article excerpt


The present cross-sectional, cross-national study was conducted to determine whether adolescents in China and New Zealand use brooding rumination to respond to stress similarly or differently. Self-reported everyday stress intensity, brooding rumination, and depressive symptoms were compared between 1624 New Zealand (NZ) and 914 Chinese early adolescents, aged 10-15 years of age. Chinese adolescents reported higher levels of brooding rumination and depression than NZ youth, and females reported higher levels of both variables than males as well. In contrast, NZ adolescents reported higher overall everyday stress intensity compared to Chinese adolescents. An examination at the stress item level showed that Chinese adolescents reported higher stress intensity for issues such as low grades and lack of free time, whereas NZ adolescents were more concerned with physical appearance and conflict with family members. Examination of the moderation hypothesis showed that brooding rumination was found to exacerbate the stress to depression relationship for younger (10-13 yrs) NZ adolescents and older (14-15 yrs) Chinese adolescents, and to a lesser extent older (14-15 yrs) NZ adolescents. Thus, it seems that this exacerbating dynamic occurred at an earlier age in New Zealand than in China. In addition, gender moderated this exacerbation relationship in that females of both countries exhibited the relationship, but males of both countries did not. Females, compared to males, and Chinese adolescents, compared to New Zealand adolescents, may report higher brooding rumination due to their stronger collectivist orientation in interpersonal relationships.

Keywords: adolescence, brooding rumination, everyday stress, depressive symptoms, China, New Zealand

1. Introduction

1.1 Cross-Cultural Comparisons of Adolescent Ruminative Coping Are Lacking

The literature concerning experiences of stress and coping efforts by adolescents has identified numerous stressors that impinge upon well-being and a wide range of different coping strategies that are used to blunt the effects of stress (e.g., Skinner & Zimmer-Gembeck, 2007; Wolchik & Sandler, 1997; Zimmer-Gembeck & Skinner, 2008). Most of the research on adolescent coping has been based on studies with American, or more broadly Western, samples. Markus and Kitayama (1991) have suggested that cultural forces significantly shape stress appraisals and coping attempts, and cross-cultural comparisons of these are needed. To answer the question as to whether Western and Asian adolescents cope with problems similarly or not, the present study reports comparisons of levels and types of stress, use of brooding rumination (i.e., repetitive self-denigrating thoughts about one's ability to cope with distress), and the outcome variable of self-reported depressive symptoms between Chinese and New Zealand adolescents. Beyond examining mean group differences between Chinese and New Zealand youth on these variables, the question of whether brooding rumination would moderate the effects of stress on depressive symptoms similarly between the two groups was empirically examined.

Lazarus and Folkman's (1984) contextual model of stress delineates definitions of stress and coping used widely within the field. Lazarus and his colleagues claim that a person initially evaluates an event's relevance through primary appraisal, i.e., does this event affect my well-being? If primary appraisal suggests that harm or loss is imminent, then the person engages in secondary appraisal, in which he or she determines whether resources at hand are adequate to meet the danger posed by the stressful event. A coping effort, then, is defined by Lazarus (1991) as "cognitive or behavioral efforts to manage specific external or internal demands (and conflicts between them) that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the resources of the person" (p. 112). The research reported here follows Lazarus's model in that we asked adolescents whether a set of particular events was judged to be stressful, whether they used brooding ruminative coping to deal with this set of stressful events, and whether coping was successful or not by measuring depressive symptoms. …

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