Depression often first manifests during adolescence. Many studies have looked at the risk factors for depression, but few have examined the fluctuations in depressive symptoms over time in teens. The trajectory of symptom severity and nuances in affect can provide valuable information about depression in teens. Lisa B. Sheeber of the Oregon Research Institute recently conducted a study that examined how dysphoria, which describes overall mood, and anger increased or decreased during a stressful event.
For her study, Sheeber recruited 69 teens without depression and 72 with depression and recorded them while they interacted with their parents. The teens engaged in negative and positive discussions, and their levels of anger, emotion, and dysphoric behaviors were monitored. Sheeber found that the teens with depression had significant increases in dysphoric behavior while they were engaged in tense, negative conversations. This was not exhibited by the nondepressed teens. In fact, their moods remained relatively stable regardless of whether the discussions were heated or calm. Sheeber did not find an increase in feelings or displays of anger in either group.
“The family environment plays an important role in adolescents’ emotional upbringing, providing the context in which both adaptive and maladaptive emotional functioning is often learned,” Sheeber said. In fact, it can serve as an incubator for positive or negative reactions and behaviors. When teens are exposed to positive conflict resolution and effective and adaptive coping techniques, they often will model those behaviors in their own lives. In this study, the depressed teens may come from families with elevated emotional volatility that could be partly responsible for a teen’s depression. Likewise, the depression could be the cause of the stress at home. It would be valuable for future efforts to look at this dynamic more thoroughly and to examine the particular elements of these interactions and how they influence dysphoria, particularly in teens with depression.
Sheeber, Lisa B., Peter Kuppens, Joann Wu Shortt, Lynn Fainsilber Katz, Betsy Davis, and Nicholas B. Allen. Depression is associated with the escalation of adolescents’ dysphoric behavior during interactions with parents. Emotion 12.5 (2012): 913-18. Print.
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