Friends and Family Support Can Help Prevent Teen Depression

Posted 07/27/2016 | By HealthCorps

A PLOS One study highlights the importance family support and friendships in preventing depression among teens. The study also indicates that having a difficult family life can put a teen at higher risk of being bullied at school.

Early Life Stress

ELS or early life stress occurs when there are a series of child family adversities (CFAs). These negative experiences that happen in the family setting can largely spur teen depressive symptoms and disorders. Identifying factors that can help to reduce depressive symptoms in teens, especially in those exposed to ELS, can have importance in terms of public mental health strategies and supportive care.

Family and Friend Support

The PLOS One study aimed to look at factors that reduce the possibility that at-risk teens will develop depression. Teen social support certainly goes a long way to limit depression. The study found that there were two mediational pathways that helped to limit depression in teens. Family support helped to mediate the link between CFAs and depressive symptoms in teens at age seventeen. Teens, who experienced multiple CFAs by age fourteen, which was in turn linked to less than optimal family support, were more likely to develop depression by age seventeen. A second pathway suggests that teen friendships helped to mediate the link between peer bullying and risk of depressive symptoms.

Teen years are pivotal

The teen years are a time of physical and emotional development. It is also a period of time in a young person’s life when depressive symptoms can appear. One major risk factor for depression is childhood family adversity, which can include poor parenting, lack of affection, financial stress, emotional, physical or sexual abuse. A separate situation that can result in a higher risk of depression is poor social interactions, specifically bullying at school.

The study

Researchers at the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge studied 800 teenagers, 322 boys and 449 girls, and then used mathematical modeling to look at the impact that friendship and family support has at age fourteen, and how it does or doesn’t limit risk of developing depression at age seventeen in at-risk preteens with a past experience of bullying or childhood family adversity.

Study results

Children bullied in primary school were less likely to have supportive friendships in their preteen and teen years. Teens who had a poor home life were more at risk for bullying at school. This “double disadvantage” contributed to a higher risk of developing teen depression or depressive symptoms by age seventeen. Boys who had a history of being bullied at primary school were less likely than girls to develop strong friendships in high school. One theory the researchers offer is that the bullying that young boys experience is more severe than the bullying that girls experience. They also offer the possible observations that the boys may simply more sensitive to the bullying tactics.

Having a supportive family or meaningful friendships, especially if childhood and middle school years are difficult, helps teens to cope, and reduces the risk of depressive symptoms developing. Family and friends help provide teens with interactions that reduce stress and improve self-esteem. Teens seem to develop stronger interpersonal skill sets with family and friend support systems.

HealthCorps emphasizes mental strength by providing high school students with supportive mentors and skill sets that encourage the development of mental strength and coping skills.

Source: ScienceDaily

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