Author(s): Heather A OMahen, Gina Fedock, Anke Karl, Nick Moberly
Background: Childhood maltreatment is an established distal risk factor for later emotional problems, although research suggests this relationship is mediated by proximal factors. However, it is unclear if different forms of childhood maltreatment are related to unique emotion regulation strategies. In this study, we examined whether avoidance and rumination, two emotion regulation strategies strongly associated with depression, were associated with different forms of childhood maltreatment, and whether these strategies, in turn, mediated the relationship between childhood maltreatment and current depressive symptoms. Methods: Participants were a community sample of pregnant, primarily low-income women, 55 of whom met criteria for Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and 85 who had elevated levels of depressive symptoms but did not meet criteria for MDD. Results: Significant rates of childhood maltreatment were reported. Childhood emotional neglect was related to behavioural avoidance, and childhood emotional abuse was related to rumination. In path analyses, behavioural avoidance mediated the relationship between childhood emotional neglect and depression. Rumination was a partial mediator of childhood emotional abuse and depression. Limitations: The data were correlational in nature, and replication with a larger sample will help validate the model. Discussion: In a clinical, community-based sample different types of childhood maltreatment are related to unique emotion regulation strategies. Implications for understanding the developmental antecedents of emotion regulation and depression are discussed.