Emotion regulation habits related to depression: A longitudinal investigation of stability and change in repetitive negative thinking and positive reappraisal

Jonas Everaert*, Jutta Joormann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Background: The propensity to use more repetitive negative thinking and less positive reappraisal is theorized to play an important role in depression. To date, little is known about the presumed enduring nature of these emotion regulation habits. Therefore, this study examined individual longitudinal trajectories and within-person sources of change in the habitual use of repetitive negative thinking and positive reappraisal.

Methods: Participants (N=320) completed twenty waves of data collection separated by one-week time intervals. At each wave, participants completed measures of habitual repetitive negative thinking, habitual positive reappraisal, perceived stress, and depression symptoms.

Results: Growth curve modeling revealed that the prototypical longitudinal trajectories of habitual repetitive negative thinking and positive reappraisal were relatively stable over time. Yet, substantial variation occurred around the prototypical change trajectories. Perceived stress and depressive symptom severity emerged as within-person factors modulating concurrent levels of emotion regulation habits. Moreover, within-person cross-lagged analysis revealed that changes in repetitive negative thinking both predicted and were predicted by changes in perceived stress. No such within-person reciprocal relations were found for positive reappraisal.

Limitations: This study covered only a period of five months, used self-report measures, and was conducted in a community sample. Furthermore, 25% of the participants did not complete all 20 waves of data collection.

Conclusions: These findings help to understand the enduring trait-like processes and within-person factors that may contribute to the longitudinal course of habitual repetitive negative thinking and positive reappraisal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)738-747
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Emotion regulation
  • Repetitive negative thinking
  • Positive reappraisal
  • Perceived stress
  • Depression

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