Neurocognitive Correlates of Rumination Risk in Children: Comparing Competing Model Predictions in a Clinically Heterogeneous Sample

Sherelle L. Harmon, Janet A. Kistner, Michael J. Kofler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The current study examined associations between rumination and executive function difficulties in preadolescent youth, using predictions outlined in the attentional scope and multiple systems models of rumination. This study aimed to (a) extend current conceptual models of rumination to youth, (b) clarify disparate model predictions regarding working memory updating (“updating”), inhibition, and shifting abilities, and (c) examine differential neurocognitive predictions between two forms of rumination, sadness and anger. One hundred and fifty-nine youths oversampled for ADHD and other forms of child psychopathology associated with executive dysfunction (aged 8–13; 53.5% male; 59.1% Caucasian) completed a battery of assessments, including self-report measures of rumination and computerized neurocognitive tasks. Multiple regression analyses were conducted assessing relations between rumination and each executive function, controlling for both sadness and anger rumination to assess their unique associations. Sadness rumination was associated with poorer updating (β = −0.18, p = 0.046) and shifting abilities (β = 0.20, p = 0.03) but not inhibition (β = −0.04, p = 0.62), offering partial support to the attentional scope and multiple systems models. In contrast, anger rumination was associated with better updating abilities (β = 0.20, p = 0.03) but not shifting (β = −0.15, p = 0.11) or inhibition (β = 0.08, p = 0.35). Together, these results suggest (a) developmental differences in the neurocognitive correlates associated with rumination risk in youth compared to findings from the adult literature, and (b) that the executive function correlates of children’s responses to negative emotions are affect-specific, such that sadness rumination is associated with difficulties replacing negative thoughts and shifting between mental sets, while anger rumination is associated with a better ability to maintain negative thoughts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1197-1210
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Anger
  • Executive function
  • Response styles
  • Rumination
  • Sadness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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