Personal projects, depressive affect and coping styles


Blake, Caminee K. (Caminee Kamla)




Through personal project analysis (Little, 1983), gender differences in the nature of ruminative and distractive coping responses were examined in the context of individuals' daily goals and concerns in order to assess their function and effectiveness in coping with depressive affect. A sample of 71 university students, composed of 35 males and 36 females between the ages of 18 to 29, participated in a one-on-one interview requiring both verbal and written responses. Respondents filled in the Personal Projects Analysis package, the Centre for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (Radloff, 1977) and the Coping Inventory for Stressful Situations (Endler & Parker, 1990). Results indicated no significant gender differences in the adoption of ruminative or distractive coping responses. In addition, contrary to NolenHoeksema's theory of coping, ruminative responses were associated with greater meaning, manageability, support, competency and less stress in relation to depressive goals. In contrast, distractive coping responses were significantly related to poor manageability, less meaning, support, competency and greater stress among individuals' most depressive goals. Furthermore, an analysis of the content categories that projects were categorized into, revealed that ruminative and distractive coping styles were consistently associated with particular types of projects. Broken down by gender, women were equally likely to adopt either a distractive or a ruminative coping response in the context of similar goals or concerns, though rumination was exclusively associated with academic/occupational projects and distraction with health 'body appearance projects. In contrast, for men, neither coping style was consistently associated with any particular content category. Furthermore, rumination and distraction were significantly related to the depressive and non-depressive projects within particular content categories. The results of this study confirm that ruminative responses to depressive affect can be associated with beneficial effects and that distractive responses may be associated with negative project appraisals. The findings also provide evidence for the utility of examining the nature of coping responses to depressive affect within a real-life context. These findings are discussed in relation to the differential effectiveness of rumination and distraction as coping responses and in relation Nolen-Hoeksema's theory of coping. The implications of adopting each of these coping responses for men and women are also discussed.


Depression, Mental
Depression, Mental -- Sex Factors
Stress (Psychology)




Carleton University

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