Are rumination and neuroticism genetically or environmentally distinct risk factors for psychopathology?

Neuroticism, a dispositional trait of heightened negative emotionality, is a vulnerability factor for psychopathology. Given neuroticism’s strong association with rumination, a repetitive thought pattern that intensifies and prolongs emotions, some question whether these constructs capture the same or unique information about vulnerability for psychopathology. The present study examined whether neuroticism is genetically and environmentally distinct from two clinically relevant ruminative subtypes—anger and depressive rumination—and whether genetic and environmental influences specific to rumination versus shared with neuroticism overlap with internalizing and externalizing psychopathology. These analyses were conducted on 439 same-sex twin pairs in the Colorado Longitudinal Twin study. Rumination and neuroticism latent variables were created from multiple rumination questionnaires administered at age 23 and shortened Eysenck Personality Questionnaires administered at ages 17 and 21, respectively. Lifetime psychopathology symptoms, assessed by two structured clinical interviews, were used to create ordinal composite variables. Multivariate Cholesky decompositions indicated that neuroticism, anger rumination, and depressive rumination have common genetic and nonshared environmental influences but are differentiated by nonshared environmental influences specific to each ruminative subtype. Genetic influences common to rumination and neuroticism explained considerable variance in internalizing psychopathology, suggesting possible genetic mediation or common genetic causes. Genetic and environmental influences on externalizing psychopathology did not substantially overlap with those on neuroticism and rumination. These findings suggest that rumination and neuroticism share most genetic influences yet are influenced by distinct environmental influences. Furthermore, our results indicate that a comprehensive understanding of transdiagnostic risk factors must include an examination of both genetic and environmental influences. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)