Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 133-151

First online:

Coping and sensitivity to aversive events

  • Sandra T. SigmonAffiliated withUniversity of Maine
  • , Lisa A. HotovyAffiliated withUniversity of Maine
  • , Peter C. TraskAffiliated withUniversity of Maine

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To test further the sensitivity to aversive events hypothesis, males and females varying in level of depressed mood listened to positive, negative, and neutral social scenes while psychophysiological measurements were obtained. In addition, the relations among response styles, coping strategies, and psychological adjustment were examined. Results indicated that only dysphoric females responded in ways consistent with the sensitivity hypothesis, exhibiting greater electrodermal responses to negative social scenes compared to nondysphoric females. No differences in psychophysiological sensitivity were found between dysphoric and nondysphoric males. Dysphoric students engaged in more ruminative type responses in reaction to their depressed mood and reported using more avoidant coping strategies in response to stress. In particular, females utilized more ruminative strategies in response to a depressed mood and more emotion-focused coping strategies in response to stressful events in general. The implications for these results are discussed within a diathesis-stress framework.

Key words

sensitivity coping depression