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Girl Talk Heightens Anxiety

August 2007 - A study from the University of Missouri published in Developmental Psychology suggests that excessive discussion about problems with friends (co-rumination) may have a negative impact on emotional adjustment in girls who are more likely than boys of the same age to develop anxiety and depression as a result.

Researchers Amanda J. Rose, Wendy Carlson, and Erika M. Waller undertook a six-month longitudinal study of 813 girls and boys from third, fifth, seventh and ninth grades to test costs and benefits associated with co-rumination. They found that the process was generally predictive of enhanced levels of friendship but girls also experienced increased symptoms of depression and anxiety, leading to greater co-rumination.

Amanda J. Rose, lead author and associate professor of psychology said:

"Having anxiety symptoms (and presumably, associated heightened levels of worries and concerns) and a high-quality friend to talk to may provide a uniquely reinforcing context for co-rumination."

Researchers speculate that co-rumination may result in girls thinking about problems in a more emotional way than boys, perhaps being more likely to take personal responsibility for failures.

Amanda J. Rose commented:

"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."

Researchers caution against "being lulled into a false sense of security" about young people, especially girls, with apparently supportive friendships. Previous studies have highlighted concerns about socially-isolated youth, but the current research identifies the risk of depression and anxiety if friendships are based on habitual co-rumination.

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