Term Paper: Adolescent Depression the Family

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[. . .] al., 1986 in Walker (1986)). Identified several biological, personality, and familial characteristics that may mean a youth has a greater chance of developing adolescent depression. Learning to recognize the signs of trouble are the keys to preventing or helping to alleviate adolescent depression before they become problematic. This may seem like a reversion to the stereotypical "at-risk" child identified earlier. However, this study was much more comprehensive and stressed the point that an individual's ability to deal with stress was more important than any one factor identified. It also stressed that one or a combination of these factors needed to be present to produce depression in some individuals. It was a step forward from previous studies.

Stress and depression should be taken seriously. Approximately 39% of all students surveyed in the University of Minnesota study were found to be suffering from mild to severe depression (Walker, 1986). Stress can be accompanied by feelings of tension, frustration, worry sadness or withdrawal. These symptoms can last from a few hours to a few days. Depression entails these same feelings, only more intense. Depression may also include feelings of hopelessness, or worthlessness as well. The Minnesota study found a significant connection between suicide attempts, stress, and depression.

The Minnesota study identified several events that are considered to be stressful by youth. They found that a number of depressed youth had experienced two or more of these stressful events in the previous six months. The stressful events identified were: a break up with a girl friend or boyfriend, arguments with parents, trouble with a brother or sister, a change in the parent's financial status, serious illness or injury of a family member, trouble with classmates, and trouble with parents (Walker, 1986). These events involved either conflict or loss at home or at school.

Many youth have coping mechanisms in place that help them to deal with stress. Many may engage in certain activites to relieve stress such as listening to music, daydreaming, trying to figure out solutions, engaging in conversations with friends and spending time with people they are close to (Walker, 1986). Many youth can deal effectively with a certain level of stress. Everyone has a stress threshold and it is impossible to predict where each individual threshold will be. The more coping mechanisms are in place, the higher amount of stress an individual will be able to withstand.

However, some teens greatly do not have coping mechanism in place and these youth may find themselves stressed as stress just seems to pile up. The more stressing events, the more likely that the depression will be severe. In the Minnesota study, many youth who had attempted suicide had more than five stresses in their lives (Walker, 1986). All youth react differently to stress and may exhibit many behavior in response. It is important for adults to recognize these stress factors and to be able to recognize the changes that may mean trouble.

Some families have a biological pre-disposition to dealing poorly with stress and youth from these families must be closely monitored for signs of maladaption (Walker, 1986). An adult must be particularly wary if the youth exhibits a change in behavior, such as a straight A student suddenly failing and getting bad grades. Depression and stress may manifest themselves as impulsive behaviors, obsessions, unrealistic fears, aggressive behavior, antisocial behavior, withdrawal, isolation from family or friends, expressions of negative self-image, placing an extreme pressure on themselves to achieve or perform, eating and sleeping disorders.

Often stressors add up and become a viscous circle. One example might be a youth feels that they do not meet their parent's expectations. They then stop doing their homework and everything gets worse, soon they feel like a failure. Sometimes these feelings cause teens to turn to substance abuse, running away from home, self-destructive behavior, or even a suicide attempt. It is unlikely that one stress in itself will cause a teen to become depressed. However, it is the accumulation of stress factors that spells trouble for teens.

Windle and Windle (2001) found a bi-directional relationship between adolescent depression and cigarette smoking. They found that smoking cigarettes increased the likelihood that a teen would develop depressive symptoms and that depressed teens were likely to take up cigarette smoking. Their study summarized and supported the findings of many other researchers before them, who obtained similar results. This study was statistically conclusive, however, can be criticized as it may have contained a biased sample. All of the teens studied were from white, middle class families and it is not known if this study is applicable to a wide population.

Hammen and Brennan (2001) studied the relationship between youth depression and the occurrence of depression in their mothers. This study found that there was a significant likely hood that the child would display depressive behaviors if the mother had at any time shown depressive tendencies. This brings up an interesting argument concerning these children. The questions must be asked, "Is this behavior learned from the mother and the children are simply imitating what they experienced as a role model?" Or do these children have biological differences that make them more susceptible to depression than other children? Let us explore this topic further.

Depressed persons often display maladaptive behaviors and have trouble in many interpersonal relationships. Many studies have focused on depressed mothers and their interpersonal relationships (Cummings & Davies, 1994; Downey & Coyne, 1990; Kaslow, Deering, & Racusin, 1994 as reviewed in Hammena and Brennan (2001)). The long-term results of these relationships are documented as well. Many feel that many factors contribute to maladaptive behaviors in children including genetic factors, and the family relationships and examples that result from their families.

Marcotte, (1999) found that not only are there differences in the number of depressed persons between male and females, but that there were also differences in the ways that the genders expressed this depression. Many previous studies are cited in this study that focus on adult populations. It also examines many studies that suggest that female and masculine stereotypes play a role in these numbers and characteristics. The Marcotte study had many confounding variables that were not identified in the study. For this reason, it cannot be concluded, as Marcotte suggests, that females have a higher chance of being depressed than males. The conclusion to this study seems to be erroneous and the subjects were not matched demographically and there are many factors, such as family history that were not considered in this study.

Students who have higher levels of problem solving skills exhibit lower level of depression than those who have lower problem solving abilities (Nezu & Ronan, 1988, in Marcotte, (1999)). There is also a connection between a person's feelings of self-efficacy and their problem solving abilities. This may effect the way they feel about themselves and this, in turn, may effect their level of depression. As pointed out in Marcotte (1999), many of these studies involved adults and it is not known if they are applicable to adolescents as well. However, Marcotte does review several studies that show that this concept holds true in adolescents as well. Marcotte also reviews many studies that connect the ability to solve problems with higher self-esteem and confidence and this tends to produce a person who is more able to cope with stress. This ultimately leads to a lessened occurrence of depression in these individuals.

Marcotte's study was conducted on French-speaking adolescents and the results obtained may have a cultural bias that were never discussed or accounted for in the discussion of the study. This study had many potential confounding variable that were neither mentioned, nor accounted for. For instance, the socio-economic status of the subjects was not discussed. Neither were factors that could have effected the study such as incidences of divorce or other familial factors in the study. It is not known if the sample of boys and girls was homogeneous, or if this could have potentially biased the results.

Reinherz (2000) identified several factors that place a person at risk to become depressed or engage in substance abuse by early adulthood. She found that when a sibling engages in substance abuse, it is likely that the individual, too, will engage in this activity. Female participants in the study who felt Anxiety, depression or that they were rejected by their peers were at greater risk. If one or more parents were depressed, this increased the risk in both genders. This study also identified several socio-economic factors that contribute to an increased risk factor for drug abuse. Persons who came from a larger family size, lower socio-economic status, and those whose parents abused drugs, contributed to the likelihood that an individual would engage in drug use.

The Reinherz study found relationships between parental depression, family size and socio-economic status, however, did not propose any reasons for this. This study mimicked many earlier studies and contained many of the same errors. The sample… [END OF PREVIEW]

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