Wednesday, July 2, 2008

When Girl Talk Goes Bad

This just in from the American Psychological Association: yet another reason to stop whining. A new study in the journal Developmental Psychology suggests Someone to Complain with Isn’t Necessarily a Good Thing. The research focused on “co-rumination,” which is definitely my new favorite word, and which means “excessively talking with another person about problems, including rehashing them and dwelling on the negative feelings associated with them.”

More than 800 third-, fifth-, seventh-, and ninth-graders were tested over a period of six months to see whether co-rumination—often an integral part of strong friendships—also resulted in increased anxiety and depression. The answer was yes indeed, but only in the case of girls. From the press release:

For girls, co-rumination predicted increased positive friendship quality, including feelings of closeness between friends. However, the study also found that girls who co-ruminate had increased depressive and anxiety symptoms, which in turn, contributed to greater co-rumination.

Kind of a vicious cycle, huh? Boys, on the other hand, got off scot-free, forging closer bonds as a result of co-rumination without any increased anxiety or depression. (As to a reason for this gender split, researchers speculate that “girls may be more likely than boys to take personal responsibility for failures” during co-rumination. Sigh.) The researchers argue the results are significant, whether you’re the parent of a girl, or a former girl yourself:

These findings are interesting because girls’ intentions when discussing problems may be to give and seek positive support. However, these conversations appear to contribute to increased depression.

While the study was focused on children and early psychological development, it does make you wonder whether grown-up complaint-fests are doing more harm than good. Ladies, just in case, it couldn’t hurt to make those happy hours a little happier.

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