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Affective family interactions and their associations with adolescent depression: A dynamic network approach

  • Nadja Bodner (a1), Peter Kuppens (a1), Nicholas B. Allen (a2), Lisa B. Sheeber (a3) and Eva Ceulemans (a1)...

Abstract

The prevalence of depression rises steeply during adolescence. Family processes have been identified as one of the important factors that contribute to affect (dys)regulation during adolescence. In this study, we explored the affect expressed by mothers, fathers, and adolescents during a problem-solving interaction and investigated whether the patterns of the affective interactions differed between families with depressed adolescents and families with nondepressed adolescents. A network approach was used to depict the frequencies of different affects, concurrent expressions of affect, and the temporal sequencing of affective behaviors among family members. The findings show that families of depressed adolescents express more anger than families of nondepressed adolescents during the interaction. These expressions of anger co-occur and interact across time more often in families with a depressed adolescent than in other families, creating a more self-sustaining network of angry negative affect in depressed families. Moreover, parents’ angry and adolescents’ dysphoric affect follow each other more often in depressed families. Taken together, these patterns reveal a particular family dynamic that may contribute to vulnerability to, or maintenance of, adolescent depressive disorders. Our findings underline the importance of studying affective family interactions to understand adolescent depression.

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Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Nadja Bodner, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, University of Leuven, Tiensestraat 102, Box 3713, 3000 Leuven, Belgium; E-mail: nadja.bodner@kuleuven.be.

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The research leading to the results reported in this paper was sponsored in part by a research grant from the Fund for Scientific Research–Flanders (FWO, Project No. G066316N to Eva Ceulemans and Francis Tuerlinckx), by the Belgian Federal Science Policy within the framework of the Interuniversity Attraction Poles program (IAP/P7/06), and by the Research Council of the University of Leuven (GOA/15/003). Data collection was funded by the US National Institute of Mental Health (Grant MH065340).

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