*The following is excerpted from an online article from MedicalXpress.
Adolescence is often a turbulent time, and it is marked by substantially increased rates of depressive symptoms, especially among girls. New research indicates that this gender difference may be the result of girls' greater exposure to stressful interpersonal events, making them more likely to ruminate, and contributing to their risk of depression.
The findings were published in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
"These findings draw our focus to the important role of stress as a potential causal factor in the development of vulnerabilities to depression, particularly among girls, and could change the way that we target risk for adolescent depression," says psychology researcher and lead author on the study, Jessica Hamilton of Temple University.
Research has shown that cognitive vulnerabilities associated with depression, such as negative cognitive style and rumination, emerge during adolescence. Teens who tend to interpret events in negative ways (negative cognitive style) and who tend to focus on their depressed mood following such events (rumination) are at greater risk of depression.
Hamilton, a doctoral student in the Mood and Cognition Laboratory of Lauren Alloy at Temple University, hypothesized that life stressors, especially those related to adolescents' interpersonal relationships and that adolescents themselves contribute to (such as a fight with a family member or friend), would facilitate these vulnerabilities and, ultimately, increase teens' risk of depression.
As expected, the research found that teens who reported higher levels of interpersonal dependent stress showed higher levels of negative cognitive style and rumination at later assessments, even after the researchers took initial levels of the cognitive vulnerabilities, depressive symptoms, and sex into account.
Girls tended to show more depressive symptoms at follow-up assessments than did boys—while boys' symptoms seemed to decline from the initial assessment to follow-up, girls' symptoms did not.
Girls also were exposed to a greater number of interpersonal dependent stressors during that time, and analyses suggest that it is this exposure to stressors that maintained girls' higher levels of rumination and, thus, their risk for depression over time.