Rumination in adolescent depression
: The impact on intrusive memories

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Clinical Psychology


Rumination, a type of repetitive negative thinking, is implicated in the onset and maintenance of adult and youth depression (Nolen-Hoeksema et al., 2008). Whilst experimental studies, key to establishing causality, have shown rumination (in comparison to alternative processing styles including concrete thinking) has a negative effect on cognitive maintaining factors amongst depressed and dysphoric adults, there is a paucity of research with adolescents. Vivid, intrusive memories of autobiographical events are often reported by depressed adults (Brewin et al., 1999). Depressed young people also experience intrusive memories, however, there is little research exploring the nature of these (Meiser-Stedman et al., 2012). Inducing a ruminative processing mode in comparison to distraction resulted in undergraduates rating an intrusive memory as more distressing (Williams & Moulds, 2010). This study aimed to explore the nature of intrusive memories provided by a dysphoric adolescent sample. It then aimed to determine if analytical rumination, in comparison to concrete thinking, impacted on the experience of intrusive memories. High dysphoric adolescents were recruited from a secondary school. They completed the Intrusive Memory Interview and experimental inductions were used to compare the effect of processing styles (rumination vs concrete) on how participants emotionally evaluated their memory. Intrusive memories were experienced frequently in our sample; roughly 1.5 times a week. The memories mainly concerned death/ injury/ illness to a close other, or interpersonal problems. They were experienced as vivid and distressing, with a considerable sense of reliving. The emotions most experienced in relation to the memories were sadness and anger. No significant differences were found regarding memory evaluation between participants in the rumination and concrete conditions. Reasons for these non-significant results are discussed and the need for further research is highlighted. This study is one of very few to explore the experience of intrusive memories in adolescent depression. This study points to the importance of considering intrusive memories in cases of youth depression, and supports the exploration of new avenues regarding the treatment of depression when intrusive memories are present.
Date of Award2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorEleanor Leigh (Supervisor) & Patrick Smith (Supervisor)

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