Researchers from the University of Central Florida, the Family Services Research Center, Medical University of South Carolina, and the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, wanted to determine if depressive symptoms predicted delinquent behavior in adolescents. “Identifying risk factors for these syndromes is imperative, given their relative stability over time and the host of unique and overlapping negative outcomes associated with them,” said the team. “For example, adolescents reporting symptoms of depression and/or delinquency are at increased risk for concurrent and future academic failure, substance use / abuse, victimization, and interpersonal problems, among others.” In order to discover if depression could predict the behavior, the researchers interviewed 3,604 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17. The participants were part of the 2005 National Survey of Adolescents (NSA) Replication and were surveyed with parental consent. They were contacted approximately 12 months apart on three separate occasions.
The researchers used a delinquency scale to assess previous delinquent behavior at each of the three interview points. They asked the participants about behaviors including selling drugs, car theft, robbery, burglary, physical assault, and being arrested or sent to juvenile detention, among other things. They evaluated the depressive symptoms of the participants using the NSA Depression Module to determine the level of their depressive symptoms over the previous year.
The team discovered that early presence of depressive symptoms was a clear predictor of delinquent behavior, and that depression presented a higher risk factor for delinquency than delinquent behavior did for depression. Additionally, the study revealed that the presence of depression in girls presented a higher risk for delinquent behavior than it did in the boys. The researchers concluded, “Collectively, these findings indicate that depressive symptoms significantly increase the likelihood that adolescents will engage in delinquent behavior and suggest that depressive symptom assessment should be a routine part of disruptive behavior evaluation and intervention.”
Kofler, Michael J., Michael R. McCart, Kristyn Zajac, Kenneth J. Ruggiero, Benjamin E. Saunders, and Dean G. Kilpatrick. “Depression and Delinquency Covariation in an Accelerated Longitudinal Sample of Adolescents.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 79.4 (2011): 458-69. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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