Summary: A new study reports the support of family and friends can help prevent depression in teens. Additionally, those teens who have grown up in difficult family environments were more likely to be bullied at school.
Source: University of Cambridge.
The importance of friendships and family support in helping prevent depression among teenagers has been highlighted in research from the University of Cambridge. The study, published in the open access journal PLOS ONE, also found that teenagers who had grown up in a difficult family environment were more likely than their peers to be bullied at school.
Adolescence is a key time in an individual’s development, and is a period where some teenagers begin to show signs of major depression. One of the major risk factors for depression in adolescence is childhood family adversity, such as poor parenting and lack of affection, emotional, physical or sexual abuse, family financial problems or the loss of a family member. Another major risk factor for depression is bullying by peers – and the combined experience of childhood family adversity and peer bullying is associated with increased severity of depression symptoms.
Studies suggest that friendships and supportive family environments may help protect adolescents from depression if they have experienced peer bullying and childhood family adversity. However, no study has simultaneously examined the complex interplay of early life adversity, bullying, family support and friendships on later adolescent depression.
Researchers at the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge studied almost 800 teenagers (322 boys and 449 girls), and used mathematical modelling to examine the impact of friendships and family support at age 14 on depressive symptoms at age 17 in adolescents who had previously experienced childhood family adversity and primary school bullying.
“Teenage years can be difficult for everyone, but we found that this is particularly the case for those teens who have had a difficult family environment,” explains Dr Anne-Laura van Harmelen, the study’s first author. “Adolescents who had experienced negative family environments are more likely to be bullied at school, and less likely to receive family support in adolescence. We also found that children who were bullied in primary school were less likely to have supportive friendships in adolescence.
“In fact, we found a strong relationship between having a negative family environment and being bullied at primary school. This puts teens at a double disadvantage and means they are more likely to experience more severe symptoms of depression in their late teens.”
Boys who had been bullied were less likely than girls to develop strong friendships in adolescence, which the researchers suggest may be because boys experienced more severe bullying or were more sensitive to bullying.
Crucially, the researchers also found that supportive family or friends in early adolescence could help reduce depressive symptoms in later teenage years. It is not clear from the results how social support influences later life mental health. However, the researchers suggest several possibilities, including that supportive friends and family environments may help enhance children’s ability to cope with adverse situations by improving their self-esteem and offering stress-relief and through helping them develop effective interpersonal skills.
“Our work really shows how important it is that children and teenagers have strong support from their family and friends, particularly if their childhood has been a difficult one,” adds Professor Ian Goodyer, senior author. “It also suggests a role for interventions such as helping parents in at-risk families develop their parenting and support skills or helping bullied teens build their confidence and social skills to help find and maintain friendships.”
About this psychology research article
Funding: The research was funded primarily by the Wellcome Trust and the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research.
Source: Craig Brierley – University of Cambridge Image Source: This NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain. Original Research: Full open access research for “Friendships and Family Support Reduce Subsequent Depressive Symptoms in At-Risk Adolescents” by Anne-Laura van Harmelen, Jenny L. Gibson, Michelle C. St Clair, Matt Owens, Jeannette Brodbeck, Valerie Dunn, Gemma Lewis, Tim Croudace, Peter B. Jones, Rogier A. Kievit, and Ian M. Goodyer in PLOS ONE. Published online May 4 2016 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0153715
Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article
[cbtabs][cbtab title=”MLA”]University of Cambridge. “Support From Friends and Family Important to Help Prevent Teen Depression.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 22 May 2016. <https://neurosciencenews.com/teens-depression-friends-bullying-4271/>.[/cbtab][cbtab title=”APA”]University of Cambridge. (2016, May 22). Support From Friends and Family Important to Help Prevent Teen Depression. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved May 22, 2016 from https://neurosciencenews.com/teens-depression-friends-bullying-4271/[/cbtab][cbtab title=”Chicago”]University of Cambridge. “Support From Friends and Family Important to Help Prevent Teen Depression.” NeuroscienceNews. https://neurosciencenews.com/teens-depression-friends-bullying-4271/ (accessed May 22, 2016).[/cbtab][/cbtabs]
Friendships and Family Support Reduce Subsequent Depressive Symptoms in At-Risk Adolescents
Early life stress (ELS) consists of child family adversities (CFA: negative experiences that happened within the family environment) and/or peer bullying. ELS plays an important role in the development of adolescent depressive symptoms and clinical disorders. Identifying factors that may reduce depressive symptoms in adolescents with ELS may have important public mental health implications.
We used structural equation modelling and examined the impact of adolescent friendships and/or family support at age 14 on depressive symptoms at age 17 in adolescents exposed to ELS before age 11. To this end, we used structural equation modelling in a community sample of 771 adolescents (322 boys and 477 girls) from a 3 year longitudinal study. Significant paths in the model were followed-up to test whether social support mediated or moderated the association between ELS and depressive symptoms at age 17. Results
We found that adolescent social support in adolescence is negatively associated with subsequent depressive symptoms in boys and girls exposed to ELS. Specifically, we found evidence for two mediational pathways: In the first pathway family support mediated the link between CFA and depressive symptoms at age 17. Specifically, CFA was negatively associated with adolescent family support at age 14, which in turn was negatively associated with depressive symptoms at age 17. In the second pathway we found that adolescent friendships mediated the path between peer bullying and depressive symptoms. Specifically, relational bullying was negatively associated with adolescent friendships at age 14, which in turn were negatively associated with depressive symptoms at age 17. In contrast, we did not find a moderating effect of friendships and family support on the association between CFA and depressive symptoms.
Friendships and/or family support in adolescence mediate the relationship between ELS and late adolescent depressive symptoms in boys and girls. Therefore, enhancing affiliate relationships and positive family environments may benefit the mental health of vulnerable youth that have experienced CFA and/or primary school bullying.
“Friendships and Family Support Reduce Subsequent Depressive Symptoms in At-Risk Adolescents” by Anne-Laura van Harmelen, Jenny L. Gibson, Michelle C. St Clair, Matt Owens, Jeannette Brodbeck, Valerie Dunn, Gemma Lewis, Tim Croudace, Peter B. Jones, Rogier A. Kievit, and Ian M. Goodyer in PLOS ONE. Published online May 4 2016 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0153715