Children’s responses to cognitive challenge and links to self-reported rumination

We tested the hypothesis that less effective responses during a cognitive challenge would relate to higher levels of self-reported rumination in children. The sample was 100 children (55 boys, 45 girls), aged 7 – 14 years. A portion (n = 65) was at high risk for depression due to having a parent with a childhood-onset mood disorder, and 35 were a low-risk comparison group. Using an impossible puzzle task, we assessed children’s responses following failure across several domains: emotions (expressed anger, sadness, and negative self-statements), performance (being off-task, the time to solve subsequent puzzles, and the number solved), and physiology (heart rate, respiratory sinus arrhythmia). Results indicated that making negative self-blaming statements during the solvable puzzles and taking more time to solve the puzzles were associated with higher levels of self-reported rumination. Our findings advance the understanding of potential correlates of children’s tendency to ruminate and may have implications for children’s performance on cognitive tasks.