Derailment and Depression in College: Tests of 3-Year Predictive Capacity and Moderation by Self-Reflection, Brooding, Perfectionism, and Cognitive Flexibility

Kaylin Ratner, Anthony L. Burrow, Jane Mendle, Felix Thoemmes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

While rich with opportunities for self-exploration, the transition to and through college is stressful, often associated with the onset or exacerbation of mental illness. Attending to these characteristics, this preregistered study asked whether derailment—or difficulties reconciling perceived identity change—in freshman year predicts senior depressive symptoms, and how individual risks for depression relate to this association. Derailment and depressive symptoms evidenced significant 3-year stability, and these constructs had positive cross-sectional associations in both freshman and senior year. Freshman derailment failed to predict senior depressive symptoms for the average student, but individual differences in selfreflection moderated the association: freshman derailment positively predicted senior depression among those lowest in self-reflection. Together, this study suggests derailment and depressive symptoms are consistently related at critical points of transition, and some individual differences in cognition may help predict their long-term association. While useful for understanding nuances between derailment and depression, these findings also inform ways of attending to and supporting college students through periods of transition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)212-222
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Counseling Psychology
Volume70
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2023

Keywords

  • college
  • depression
  • derailment
  • identity
  • individual differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Psychology

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