Complaining To Friends Increases Girls' Misery

Girls who share their problems with friends may increase their despair.

ByABC News
July 13, 2007, 5:25 PM

July 16, 2007— -- Girls who dish to their friends about their problems may actually be increasing their misery by doing so.

Such are the findings of a study released Sunday, in which researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia found that "co-rumination" -- in other words, excessively discussing problems with close friends -- appears to increase anxiety and depression in young and adolescent girls.

Boys of the same age, on the other hand, appeared to be immune to these effects.

The study appears in the July issue of the American Psychological Association (APA) journal Developmental Psychology.

"We used to really worry about kids who don't have friends," said lead study author Amanda Rose, associate professor of psychology at the University of Missouri-Columbia. "That makes sense; we still should worry about them. But we usually feel good about kids who have friends whom they can talk to.

"It is important that parents and professionals not ignore the possibility that girls with close friends are still at risk for depression and anxiety."

Psychology experts grappled over exactly how the findings should be interpreted. Alan Kazdin, professor of child psychiatry at Yale University and former president of the APA, said the findings point to certain warning signs for parents.

"A little bit of talking about problems is fine, but much focus on trauma, injury and problems can incubate -- increase or exacerbate -- their effect," he said. "Sensitizing parents to this and having professionals sensitize parents and teachers to this would be helpful."

Some, however, questioned the link.

"It should be noted that this is shows a co-occurrence of two behaviors... and not a causal relationship," said Dr. Chris Okiishi, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. "In other words, this study does not show that one causes the other -- just that they occurred at the same time."

And Nadine Kaslow, chief psychologist at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta and a professor at Emory University's School of Medicine, said there are benefits to communicating concerns with friends that go beyond depression and anxiety.