Can Peer and Parent Relationships Predict Depression in Teens?

Numerous factors have been examined as precursors to depression. Vulnerabilities include neuroticism and dependency, with the latter broken down even further into neediness or connectedness dependency. When children enter adolescence, they begin to look to their social networks and peers to get their emotional needs met. Rather than relying solely on their family and parents for support, they develop relationships that become integral to their development. Although research on depression has studied peer relations and parent-child relations, few studies have looked at how both of these bonds interact to influence the risk of depression.

Daniel C. Sibley-Kopala of the Department of Psychology at McGill University in Canada sought to close this gap in literature. In a recent study, Sibley-Kopala assessed 200 young adults and asked them to recall their adolescent peer relations and parent relationships. He also evaluated their current levels of neediness and connectedness as markers of depression risk. Sibley-Kopala found that when mother-child relationships were weak, peer relationships had a significant impact on connectedness, both positively and negatively. For some participants, positive peer relationships strengthened their feelings of connectedness that were impaired in their parent-child relationship. For others, negative and dismissive peer relations served to weaken their already fragile feeling of connectedness, placing them at increased risk for depression.

With respect to neediness, Sibley-Kopala found similar results. Participants who felt uncared for or neglected by their parents relied more heavily on peer relationships to fill these needs. When they were not met through friendships, neediness increased. However, when the participants developed relationships with peers that were supportive and positive, controlling and harsh parents limited the scope of those relationships, thus increasing the level of neediness. In sum, these findings show that peer attachments have a critical impact on vulnerability to depression, and that parental relationships contribute to these influences. “Despite this, longitudinal research is required to clarify the relationships between parenting, peer attachments, and vulnerabilities to depression,” Sibley-Kopala said. He believes that a better understanding of how peer and parent relationships affect depression risk could help identify individuals who are most vulnerable and provide opportunities for early intervention and even depression prevention.

Kopala-Sibley, Daniel C., David C. Zuroff, Michelle J. Leybman, and Nora Hope. The developmental origins of dependency-related vulnerabilities to depression: Recalled peer attachments and current levels of neediness and connectedness. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science 44.4 (2012): 264-71. Print.

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Ursula

    December 11th, 2012 at 4:04 AM

    It seems that there is this never ending cycle of dependency on one anotherfor all of us, for the old and the young and the strong and the weak. This does not mean that we always need a hand to hold for support,but what it does mean is that we always need to know that the hand is there for us when we do need it. While this is especially true for teens, I think that we all have this from time to time and should not view it as something bad.

  • Deb

    December 11th, 2012 at 9:30 AM

    one thing-who really accurately remembers their teen years? even if you are pretty close to them, you always remember things different than how they really happened when you were a teenager.

  • Elaine

    December 11th, 2012 at 9:32 AM

    Deb, I also had a question. Just wondering what defines a weak mother-child relationship. Is it one where the mother is mostly absent, where she is present but she and the teen argue a lot? I have a teenaged daughter and I can’t honestly say that we get along all that great. I hope I am not pushing her into a depression by not having a more harmonious relationship with her.

  • K Bucherati

    December 11th, 2012 at 9:34 AM

    “Just wondering what defines a weak mother-child relationship. Is it one where the mother is mostly absent, where she is present but she and the teen argue a lot? I have a teenaged daughter and I can’t honestly say that we get along all that great. I hope I am not pushing her into a depression by not having a more harmonious relationship with her.”

    Don’t be so hard on yourself we all have a hard time with our teenage kids. there isn’t anybody who can say they got along iwth there teen daughter. If they do there lying! LOL! i’m sure you do a great job. chin up!

  • Campbell

    December 11th, 2012 at 5:42 PM

    How come the blame always seems to point toward the mom?
    What if the dad is absent and this is a bigger part of the problem than anyone is actually willing to acknowledge?

  • zelda

    December 12th, 2012 at 4:05 AM

    Can these relationships definitively point out which kids will be depressed and which ones will not? No, I don’t believe that. But they could be some pretty clear indicators that there is a chance that this could happen and could be something that parents and teachers would both want to keep in their minds.

  • alan

    December 12th, 2012 at 8:56 AM

    I was lucky to have a loving family with parents and three siblings.It is something that I always cherish and feel for the people who have missed out on all that.I mean you’re just a little child trying to understand bond and feelings and you are ignored and not loved?That could be devastating.And we scratch our heads when we see people do weird stuff.Childhood can make or break a person!

  • Debra

    December 12th, 2012 at 8:48 PM

    I was absent from my daughters life from when she was five until she was nine; I had no idea where she was and since I became an addict her fathers family kept her from me, this only made my addiction worse, and made Haley suffer by not knowing where I was and missing each other every day of our lives for those years. We have reconected three years ago and it seems that our relationship is strong although I know what she went through has had an effect on her, the bottom line us we have a connection like nothing else in this world and nothing will ever separate us, ever again.

  • Damien T

    December 12th, 2012 at 11:35 PM

    Our relationships and their quality play a big role in our life,often a role more important than we’d like to admit. Everything we are connected an related to shapes who we are and a lack of quality relationships can drive a person into being a loner and then reaching depression is not too far.

    On the other hand happy and quality relationships cando a lot not just to prevent depression but also to get out of it!

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