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Trajectories of depressive symptoms and stressful life events among male and female adolescents in divorced and nondivorced families

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 February 2006

University of California, Davis
University of California, Davis
University of California, Davis


This 11-year longitudinal study models the trajectories of depressive symptoms among approximately 550 females and males raised in divorced and nondivorced families in the rural Midwest. Using multilevel analyses, we demonstrate that, first, depressive symptoms changed according to a curvilinear pattern, especially for females; they increased during early to midadolescence and then declined in late adolescence to young adulthood. Second, compared with males, females experienced a greater number of depressive symptoms in adolescence and early adulthood. Third, children who experienced parental divorce by age 15 manifested a sharper increase in depressive symptoms compared to those from nondivorced families. Fourth, stressful life events children experienced shortly after parental divorce mediated the effect of parental divorce on depressive symptoms. Fifth and finally, time-varying stressful life events, particularly those related to relationship and personal loss, were significantly associated with the trajectories of depressive symptoms.During the past several years, support for this research has come from multiple sources including the National Institute of Mental Health (MH00567, MH19734, MH43270, MH48165, MH51361), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (DA05347), the Bureau of Maternal and Child Health (MCJ-109572), the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Successful Adolescent Development among Youth in High-Risk Settings, the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station (Project No. 3320), and the California Agriculture Experiment Station (CA-D*-HCD-6092-H).

Research Article
© 2006 Cambridge University Press

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