Peer pressure is a strong influence for adolescents. But until now, no research has been conducted to determine what effects sadness and depression have within a social group. Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands, collaborated on a study to identify how depressive symptoms within a peer group increase the risk of depression for group mates. “Specifically, we examine the tendency for youths’ depressive symptom levels to become more similar to fellow peer group members’ symptom levels over time, a phenomenon known as depression socialization,” said the team.
There is a vast amount of research that suggests that adolescence provides an especially vulnerable period for peers to conform and be susceptible to influences within their social group. The researchers noted, “Indeed, peer influence effects have been demonstrated remarkably consistently for child and adolescent externalizing and health risk behaviors, such as aggression, alcohol and substance use.” The researchers examined 648 adolescents between the ages of 10 and 13, using the Children’s Depression Inventory. The children were assessed at baseline and again one year after. They were asked to report their own symptoms of sadness and depression, and the members of their close friendship group were asked to do the same. “Results supported the existence of a depression socialization effect whereby average levels of depressive symptoms in the friendship group predicted youths’ own depressive symptoms over time,” said the team. “It is important to note that this result held even when controlling for youths’ initial depressive symptoms, indicating a unique socialization effect above and beyond the possible influences of friendship selection processes.” The researchers believe these findings are important for peer situations, but more studies need to be done. They added, “This result suggests a need for further research to examine the effects of symptomatic improvement in one group member on other youth in the peer group.”
Conway, C. C., Rancourt, D., Adelman, C. B., Burk, W. J., & Prinstein, M. J. (2011, August 15). Depression Socialization Within Friendship Groups at the Transition to Adolescence: The Roles of Gender and Group Centrality as Moderators of Peer Influence. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0024779
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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