Adolescence is the time when a lot of changes are happening in a person's life. However, a recent study has suggested that this phase of life is more turbulent for girls. It is also said that in girls this phase is marked by a high rate of depressive symptoms. The study says that it is likely that the gender difference could be a result of high stress events in a girl's life which makes them more immune to ruminate and that contributes to their risk of depression.
The findings of this study were published in the Clinical Psychological Science Journal by Association for Psychological Science.
Jessica Hamilton psychology researcher of Temple University and the lead author on the study opined that the finding dwell on the importance of stress as a potential reason that leads to the development of vulnerabilities to depression, especially in girls. It could greatly influence the way the risk of adolescent depression is treated. She added that there is a range of vulnerabilities that is responsible for the higher rates of depression among adolescent girls; however the study highlights an important malleable pathway that explains girls’ greater risk of depression.
The research pinpoints that certain cognitive vulnerabilities associated with depression, like negative cognitive style and rumination, emerge during adolescence. Those teens who have the habit of interpreting events in negative ways which is negative cognitive style, and those who tend to focus on their depressed mood following such events also known as rumination, are at greater risk of suffering from adolescent depression.
It was hypothesized by Hamilton, a doctoral student in the Mood and Cognition Laboratory of Lauren Alloy at Temple University that not only life stressors, those linked to the adolescents' interpersonal relationships but also the adolescent themselves are contributors in facilitating such vulnerabilities. That is the reason why there is an increase in teen's risk of depression.
For this research, data from 382 participating Caucasian and African American adolescent were examined. The adolescents were asked to complete self-report measures which evaluated cognitive vulnerabilities and depressive symptoms at an initial assessment. They were then made to complete three follow-up assessments, each of them were spaced about 7 months apart. As previously hypothesized, teens who had shown higher levels of interpersonal dependent stress reported higher levels of negative cognitive style and rumination at later assessments. The researchers also took initial levels of the cognitive vulnerabilities, depressive symptoms, and sex into account.
The data revealed that girls tended to show more depressive symptoms at follow-up assessments than the boys. Interestingly, it was also noted that the boys’ symptoms seemed to decline from the initial assessment to follow-up. However, the opposite was true for girls. The reason for that was that the girls were exposed to a greater number of interpersonal dependent stressors during that time. The researchers concluded that this exposure to stressors was responsible for higher levels of rumination and stress in girls which ultimately lead to depression.
Another important thing to note here is that the researchers emphasized that the girls were not more reactive to stress as compared to boys. In other words, if the boys and girls had been exposed to the same number of stressors, it is likely that both would have developed rumination and negative cognitive styles.
Hamilton remarks that parents, educators, and clinicians should keep in mind that girls have a greater exposure to interpersonal stressors which makes at high risk for depression. The next step in this study will be to find out why girls are exposed to more interpersonal stressors. It need to be figured out if it is something specific to adolescent female relationships or if it is it the societal expectations for young adolescent girls.