Stressful life events and depressive problems in early adolescent boys and girls: The influence of parental depression, temperament and family environment

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Background: Stressful life events increase the probability of depressive problems in early adolescence. Several genetic and environmental risk factors may change individual sensitivity to the depressogenic effect of these events. We examined modification by parental depression and gender, and mediation of the former by temperament and family environment.

Methods: Data were collected as part of a longitudinal cohort study of (pre)adolescents (n = 2127). During the first assessment wave at approximately age 11, we assessed parental depression, family functioning, perceived parenting behaviours, and temperamental frustration and fearfulness. At the second wave, about two and a half years later, stressful life events between the first and second assessment were assessed. Depressive problems were measured at both waves.

Results: Adolescents with parents who had a (lifetime) depressive episode were more sensitive to the depressogenic effect of stressful events than adolescents without depressed parents. Furthermore, girls are more sensitive to these effects than boys. The modifying effect of parental depression was not mediated by temperament, family functioning and perceived parenting.

Limitations: Life events were assessed without consideration of contextual information. Depressive problems were measured by questionnaires that did not directly represent DSM-IV criteria. The measure of parental depression was unspecific regarding severity and timing of depressive episodes.

Conclusion: The results suggest that gender and parental depression are associated with increased sensitivity to depression after experiencing stressful life events during adolescence. (C) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-193
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - Jan-2008


  • adolescent depressive problems
  • stressful life events
  • parental depression
  • gender
  • mediated modification
  • RISK

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