Low Subjective Social Status Promotes Ruminative Coping


  • This project was supported by Grant 1 R13 MH075625 from the American Psychological Association Minority Fellowship Program; a mentorship supplement to Grant 2151 from the WT Grant Foundation; and the Smith College Committee on Faculty Compensation and Development. The authors thank members of the Society, Psychology, and Health Laboratory for assistance with study design, data collection, and manuscript preparation; Victoria Churchill, Danielle Grimm, Mara Laderman, and Nicole Overstreet for their help with data preparation and coding; David Palmer and Eileen Zurbriggen for statistical consulting; and Jana Haritatos, Kathryn Grant, Kristen Harrison, Ada Wilkinson-Lee, and J. Rebecca Young for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript. Portions of this paper were presented at the 8th annual conference of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Memphis, TN, January 2007; and at the 32nd annual conference of the Association for Women in Psychology, San Francisco, CA, March 2007. Jessica Chiang is now at the University of California, Los Angeles. Elizabeth Goodman is now at the Center for Child and Adolescent Health Policy, MassGeneral Hospital for Children.

Benita Jackson, Department of Psychology, Clark Science Center, 44 College Lane, Smith College, Northampton, MA 01063. E-mail: bjackson@smith.edu


Correlational research has shown that lower social standing is associated with poorer health, but it is unknown if this association is causal. Two experiments tested whether randomly assigned low subjective social status would promote ruminative coping, a mechanism leading to the development of poor health outcomes. Participants were college females, split about evenly between Blacks and Whites. Experiment 1 (N = 39) found those imagining themselves at the bottom (vs. top) of a social ladder showed more ruminative coping using rater-assessed responses. Experiment 2 (N = 42) replicated these results, extended them with a self-report outcome measure, and demonstrated that negative affect did not mediate between subjective social status and ruminative coping. Across both experiments, race/ethnicity had no effect.