Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 199–207 | Cite as

Associations Among Early Life Stress, Rumination, Symptoms of Psychopathology, and Sex in Youth in the Early Stages of Puberty: a Moderated Mediation Analysis

  • Joelle LeMoultEmail author
  • Kathryn L. Humphreys
  • Lucy S. King
  • Natalie L. Colich
  • Alexandria N. Price
  • Sarah J. Ordaz
  • Ian H. Gotlib


Despite the high prevalence and substantial costs of early life stress (ELS), the mechanisms through which ELS confers risk for psychopathology are poorly understood, particularly among youth who are in an earlier stage of the transition through puberty. We sought to advance our understanding of the link between ELS and psychopathology by testing whether rumination mediates the relation between ELS and symptoms of psychopathology in youth in the early stages of puberty, and whether sex moderates this mediation. We assessed levels of ELS, both brooding and reflection subtypes of rumination, and internalizing and externalizing symptoms in 170 youth in the early stages of puberty (56% girls) ages 9–13 years. Brooding, but not reflection, mediated the relation between ELS and both internalizing and externalizing symptoms. Importantly, however, sex moderated the relation among ELS, brooding, and symptoms. Specifically, brooding mediated the relation between ELS and both internalizing and externalizing symptoms for girls, but not for boys. Findings support the formulation that brooding is a mechanism linking ELS to multiple forms of behavioral and emotional problems exclusively in girls in the early stages of puberty.


Early life stress Rumination Sex differences Psychopathology 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Stanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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