Negative Feedback-Seeking in Depression: Examination of Maladaptive Schemas and Rumination as Cognitive Mechanisms, and the Prospective Prediction of Interpersonal Stressful Events
Coyne’s (1976) interpersonal theory of depression describes a process through which depressed individuals communicate with others such that aversive aspects of their interpersonal behaviour can exacerbate or maintain their depression. Swann’s self-verification theory (Swann, 1983; Swann, 1987) proposes that one such behaviour, negative feedback-seeking (NFS), is the solicitation of negative self-relevant information from others that confirms their negative self-views. Research has demonstrated an association of NFS to depression; however, the cognitive structures that account for this relationship have yet to be empirically tested. In the context of an interpersonal laboratory stressor, the first goal of the present study was to examine the mediating role of rumination and negative self-schemas in the relation of depression to NFS in a sample of 61 participants with diagnosed major depression and 61 non-depressed participants. The second goal was to improve our understanding of how NFS prospectively contributes to negative outcomes – specifically, to interpersonal stress and the exacerbation of depression. Participants underwent a diagnostic interview to determine depression status, and they completed measures of NFS, rumination, negative self-schemas, and depressive symptoms. Participants returned to the lab three months later to complete a contextual interview retrospectively assessing stressful interpersonal events in the interim three-month period and to re-assess depressive symptoms. The results showed that particular negative self-schema domains (i.e., Impaired Limits; and Over-Vigilance & Inhibition) mediated the depression-NFS relation. Rumination was not a significant mediator; however, rumination interacted with the Impaired Limits domain to moderate the significant mediation of Impaired Limits on the relation between depression and NFS, such that the mediation was significant only at moderate and high levels of rumination. With respect to negative outcomes of NFS, the present study did not find that NFS prospectively predicted interpersonal stress, nor did depression (a diagnosis of major depression or baseline depressive symptoms) significantly moderate the relation. Finally, consistent with the hypothesis, NFS significantly prospectively predicted increases in depressive symptoms over time, and these relations were significantly moderated by interpersonal stress exposure. These results are discussed in relation to the findings of previous studies and with regard to limitations of the current study.