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16-05-2015 | Uitgave 4/2015

Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment 4/2015

Concurrent and Prospective Associations Between Emotion Reactivity and Depressive Symptoms in Middle Childhood

Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment > Uitgave 4/2015
Jennifer A. Somers, Jessica L. Borelli, Patricia A. Smiley, Jessica L. West, Lori M. Hilt


According to the emotion context-insensitivity hypothesis (ECI: Rottenberg et al. 2005), depression is associated with emotion reactivity such that depressed individuals are less reactive to stressors. Although little is known about the relation between children’s emotion reactivity and the development of depressive symptoms, finding evidence for the ECI before the onset of major depression would suggest that emotion under-reactivity is a risk factor for depression. In this study we address outstanding questions about depression and reactivity by assessing reciprocal associations between emotion reactivity (operationalized as cardiac reactivity to stress) and depressive symptoms in middle childhood, while controlling for rumination. Forty-three children (53 % girls) between the ages of 8 and 12 participated in this longitudinal study spanning a 2-year period. At Wave 1, children completed questionnaires to assess depressive symptoms and rumination. In addition, they completed an emotional stressor task while cardiac reactivity was measured. At Wave 2, children completed a depression questionnaire as well as a performance challenge task while cardiac reactivity was measured. Results showed that cardiac under-reactivity to the emotional stressor at Wave 1 was associated concurrently and prospectively with greater depressive symptom severity. However, Wave 2 depressive symptoms were not significantly associated with Wave 2 reactivity to the performance stressor and Wave 1 depressive symptoms were marginally associated with Wave 2 reactivity. Additional research on emotion reactivity and depressive symptoms in middle childhood is needed; preliminarily, our results suggest that children who exhibit under-reactivity to sadness may benefit from interventions to reduce or prevent the development of clinically-significant depressive symptoms during middle childhood.

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