Teens that have a parent with a mood issue, depression or anxiety, are at increased risk for developing depression. Symptoms often first appear when the teen is confronted with a challenging life event. “Stressors can be categorized as interpersonal and achievement events,” said Jocelyn Smith Carter of DePaul University and co-author of a study examining which stressors predict depression in teens. “Interpersonal stressors involve interactions with another person(s) such as conflict, rejection, and break-ups. Achievement stressors typically involve failure or disappointment in relation to a goal.” Carter and her colleague Judy Garber of Vanderbilt University stated that the greatest risk factor for depression for teens is having a depressed parent. “Children of depressed parents are exposed to higher levels of stress and have more negative cognitions than children of non-depressed parents,” said Carter. “Moreover, the relation between stress and depressive symptoms has been found to be significant in offspring of depressed mothers, and some evidence consonant with the cognitive stress model has been reported for at-risk children with high levels of dysfunctional attitudes or low self-esteem in relation to depressive symptoms.”
The researchers evaluated 240 mothers and their children; 185 of the mothers had been diagnosed with depression. Among the depressed mothers, over one-fourth of them had alcohol or drug misuse issues and another 27% had anxiety problems. The participants were interviewed at five different points following the children from grade 6 through grade 12. The team found that interpersonal stressors were significantly more likely lead to depression in the children of depressed parents than any other risk factor. Specifically, these teens had increased interpersonal stress levels 61% of the time during the six year study. The researchers said, “Approaches that integrate both cognitive and interpersonal strategies may be especially effective and therefore should be the focus of future intervention efforts.” They added, “Finally, results of the current study highlight the need for the continued development and dissemination of depression prevention programs that target cognitive restructuring and coping with stress, particularly in offspring of depressed parents.”
Carter, J. S., & Garber, J. (2011, September 19). Predictors of the First Onset of a Major Depressive Episode and Changes in Depressive Symptoms Across Adolescence: Stress and Negative Cognitions. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025441
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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