Category: Parenting / Families
Parental expression of negative emotions is associated with the development of depressive symptoms during adolescence (Schwartz et al., 2014). Additionally, adolescents with a prior anxiety diagnosis are at increased risk for later development of a depressive disorder (Woodward & Fergusson, 2001). Further, rates of depression rise markedly among girls relative to boys during this developmental period (Hankin et al., 1998). Research has indicated that increased rates of depression in adolescent girls may be explained by their heightened sensitivity to interpersonal stress within relationships, including those with their parents (Rudolph, 2002). However, little research has explored how gender may contribute to adolescents’ vulnerability to specific parenting behaviors. The present study seeks to investigate how parenting interacts with gender to predict adolescent depressive symptoms. Participants were primarily Caucasian (91.9%), and included 74 adolescents (M=11.56 years, SD=1.48; 55.4% female), previously treated for an anxiety disorder, and their parent. Parents and their adolescents participated in a laboratory-based interaction task in which the dyad discussed a recent time when the adolescent felt worried. The Living in Family Environments (LIFE) coding system was used to assess the frequency of parent’s anxious and depressive affect during the discussion task. Youth also completed the Moods and Feelings Questionnaire (MFQ) to assess for depressive symptoms. Separate regression analyses revealed significant interaction effects of parental depressive and anxious affect by gender on adolescent depressive symptoms (β=-.299, p=.01; β=.416, p=.00, respectively). Simple slope, post-hoc analyses indicated that parental depressive affect was significantly associated with depressive symptoms in boys (t=2.73, p=.01), but not in girls (t=-.98, p=.33). In contrast, post-hoc analyses indicated that parental anxious affect significantly predicted depressive symptoms in girls (t=3.93, p=.00), but not in boys (t=-1.88, p=.06). Taken together, results suggest that girls and boys may be differentially sensitive to parenting behaviors during adolescence. Boys may be more vulnerable to dysphoric parenting, while girls may be more vulnerable to anxious parenting. Results indicate that gender differences should be considered in the development of parenting-based strategies applicable to the treatment and prevention of adolescent depression.