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Prospective Relation Between Ruminative Subtypes and Suicide Ideation: Moderating Role of Problem Solving

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Although reflection has been characterized as a more adaptive subtype of rumination than brooding, evidence suggests that reflection is associated with suicide ideation. The present longitudinal study investigated the mediating role of hopelessness and depressive symptoms and the moderating role of problem solving in explaining why reflection may lead to suicide ideation.


Two hundred ninety-four undergraduates participated in the study and were followed up every 6 months over 18 months. Participants completed measures of brooding and reflection, hopelessness, depressive symptoms, problem solving, and suicide ideation.


Results revealed that after adjusting for baseline suicide ideation, the serial mediation path from brooding (but not reflection) to suicide ideation via hopelessness and depressive symptoms was significant. Baseline reflection predicted suicide ideation 18 months later through depressive symptoms at 12 months for people average in passive problem solving, and for those low or average in active problem solving. Brooding predicted suicide ideation through depressive symptoms, regardless of problem-solving.


Reflection may result in suicide ideation via depressive symptoms among people with poor problem-solving skills. Clinical and theoretical implications are discussed.

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  1. Raters also coded the number of irrelevant means (i.e., attempts to problem solve that do not directly relate to the end of the problem). Irrelevant means focus on solving other problems that are not directly involved with the stated problems. Raters coded irrelevant means so that problem solving scores were not merely reflective of longer responses (e.g., individuals who provided longer responses that did not address solutions to the given problem). Raters were careful to prevent longer responses from receiving higher problem-solving scores if the responses failed to address the end specified in the prompt. Finally, raters also coded global effectiveness (i.e., the degree to which a response maximizes positive and minimizes negative short-term and long-term consequences). These latter two scores were not a focus of the present study.


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Thanks to Alyssa Wheeler, Valerie Khait, Soumia Cheref, Kaerensa Craft, Eileen Fener, Dalia Gefen, Nargus Harounzadeh, Matthew Kaplowitz, Amy Kephart, Justyna Jurska, Giulia Landi, Robert Lane, Lisa Lerner, Wendy Linda, Russell Marks, Lillian Polanco-Roman, Jessica Silver, Lauren Uss, and Jorge Valerrama for their assistance with data collection. Thanks to Dr. Thomas Corbeil for providing statistical consultation and to Drs. Joel Erblich and Tyrel Starks for additional comments on our statistical analyses.


This research was funded by NIH Grants MH 091873 and GM060665.

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Correspondence to Regina Miranda.

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Beverlin Rosario-Williams and Regina Miranda have no conflicts of interest to declare.

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Rosario-Williams, B., Miranda, R. Prospective Relation Between Ruminative Subtypes and Suicide Ideation: Moderating Role of Problem Solving. Cogn Ther Res 47, 574–586 (2023).

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