Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Science




Heerey, Erin A


Although co-rumination is associated with positive relationship perceptions, individuals that engage in this behaviour often report fewer friends and peer difficulties. Those with a tendency to co-ruminate also report elevated levels of internalizing symptoms. Thus, the tendency to co-ruminate may put individuals at risk of depressive and anxious symptoms as well as social problems as they make the challenging transition to university and build new social networks. I analyzed social network data from 458 first year undergraduate students during their first university semester. Co-rumination within a particular relationship was associated with greater tie strength and socio-emotional multiplexity. Co-rumination was positively associated with depressive and anxious symptoms. Contrary to predictions, individuals with a tendency to co-ruminate did not differ from their peers in terms of network size and density. Results suggest that the negative impacts of co-rumination on social well-being may develop over time, rather than being apparent in the early stages of network building.

Summary for Lay Audience

Excessive venting about personal problems and negative feelings, known as “co-rumination”, is linked to mental health difficulties such as increased depressive and anxious symptoms. While this behaviour may create a uniquely strong bond between two people, it may also put individuals at risk for other social difficulties such as peer rejection and having fewer friends overall. Given its association with social and mental health challenges, it is important to understand how co-rumination may impact an individual’s ability to form friendships and support networks during life transitions. Entering university may be a particularly stressful life transition during which individuals are balancing a new academic course load while entering a new social climate. Thus, I explored how an individual’s tendency to co-ruminate influenced their social relationships and mental health symptoms during the first semester of their undergraduate studies. I surveyed 458 first year undergraduate students about their tendency to co-ruminate, their mental health (i.e., depressive and anxious symptoms) symptoms and their social relationships (i.e., friendships, acquaintances, and romantic/sexual partners). Individuals with a tendency to co-ruminate showed higher levels of depressive and anxious symptoms compared to their peers. Moreover, relationships, where co-rumination occurred, were shown to be particularly close, high quality and satisfactory while also fulfilling a variety of social and emotional support roles (e.g., engaging in social activities together, helping with studying, etc.). Individuals with a tendency to co-ruminate did not differ from their peers regarding the number of social connections or relationships in their network. These findings suggest that the social difficulties associated with co-rumination may occur slowly over time. Additionally, the frequency of network building activities during the beginning of one’s undergraduate studies may be a protective factor in the association between co-rumination and social difficulties.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.