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Objectives. To assess the factor structure of the Nolen-Hoeksema (1991) Response Styles Questionnaire (RSQ), and to investigate the relationship between coping with depression and other measures of affective symptomatology in a student sample.

Design. A factor analytic study of the RSQ followed by an investigation of the relationship between RSQ scale scores and measures of affective symptomatology.

Method. Five hundred twenty-eight undergraduate students completed a battery of questionnaires comprising the RSQ, Beck Depression Inventory, Hypomania Personality Questionnaire, Positive and Negative Affect Scale and the Dysfunctional Attitudes Scale. Factor analysis of the RSQ was performed and correlational and regression analyses were conducted on the data from the other four questionnaire measures.

Results. Factor analysis revealed a meaningful 3-factor solution which measured coping styles characterized by (i) rumination; (ii) pleasant distraction and problem-solving; and (iii) risk-taking. Rumination and risk-taking were independently associated with both depression and hypomania scores, and hypomania was associated with both depression and dysfunctional attitudes. Additional relationships between coping and the other measures are also reported.

Conclusions. The results support the validity of the coping styles concept and suggest their natural separation into three distinct strategies. Abnormal coping is discussed as a potential contributing factor to affective symptoms, including symptoms of bipolar disorder.