The Psychology Newsletter for Spring 2013 (.PDF, 690 KB) covers updates for the Science IV and V Buildings, profiles some of our faculty and alumni (both Graduate & Undergraduate), and highlights our Honors students and awards winners from 2012.
“Co-rumination,” a term coined by Dr. Amanda Rose, an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Missouri (Columbia), describes the process by which friends focus on sharing thoughts and self-perceptions with each other to the exclusion of other activities—culminating in what has been described as a “contagious effect” of pessimistic thinking amongst friends or social groups. Lindsey Stone, a doctoral student in clinical psychology whose research focuses on adolescent depression, explains that scientific evidence has confirmed that “starting in adolescence, girls are at a much higher risk for developing depression than boys.”
According to Stone, this trend “is a bit of a paradox to researchers who study peer relationships because research shows that the friendships girls develop are much more supportive and intimate [as] compared to the friendships boys develop.”
The traditional view is that friendships protect or help an individual deal with emotional distress, but Stone’s research indicates that co-rumination among friends actually increases the risk for depression among adolescents. Her work supports the evidence that adolescent girls are more likely to co-ruminate (continually discuss and re-evaluate their problems and emotional reactions) whereas boys’ friendships are more activity-centered. “Girls,” Stone says, “aren’t venting about problems, sympathizing with each other, and then moving onto another activity. They’re fixating on the problem(s), and to the extent [that] they become stuck in this pattern it becomes a poor coping strategy.”
Stone’s research expands the current work on friendship activity patterns by studying the impact of adolescent friendships on multiple levels (from the intimate friendship to broader social systems) through what she terms “social network analysis.”
“We just don’t have a [research-confirmed] handle on how peer contagion happens,” Stone explains. “Most therapy focuses on whether or not an individual has friendships. This research suggests that therapy needs to focus on the actual dynamics of how friends’ activities and support strategies impact risk, and more importantly how they can be modified to become more helpful and adaptive.”
So far, Stone’s research has confirmed that how we seek support from friends does matter and teens who seek support in maladaptive ways (co-rumination) are “more vulnerable to developing depression in the near future.” Her study of the impact of larger social networks and friendship groups may help answer which adolescents are more vulnerable to friends’ depression or coping strategies: those on the fringe of social groups or those at the core of a network.
An important element of Stone’s success has been the commitment of the faculty at Binghamton University. “My advisor, Associate Professor Brandon Gibb, has had a vital role in helping me develop my ideas and line of research. He is one of those rare mentors who is both super invested in his students’ careers and treats us like colleagues responsible for defining our independent research interests.”
Stone also benefits from interdisciplinary collaboration with Associate Professor Pamela Mischen in the Public Administration Department. “Dr. Mischen … has been instrumental in helping me develop competency in social network analysis. I cannot overemphasize how essential it is to have brilliant and supportive colleagues.”
“Psychology as a science is still in its infancy,” Stone says. “There is just so much room for discovery… It’s thrilling to think that in some small way our research may contribute to understanding depression risk and improve future treatments for vulnerable teens.”
Last Updated: 5/25/12