Skip to main content Accessibility help

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)...


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.


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:


Hide All

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).



Hide All
Aldana, M., Coppersmith, S., & Kadanoff, L. P. (2003). Boolean dynamics with random couplings. In Kaplan, E., Marsden, J. E., & Sreenivasan, K. R. (Eds.), Perspectives and problems in nonlinear science (pp. 2389). New York: Springer.
Allen, N. B., Kuppens, P., & Sheeber, L. B. (2012). Heart rate responses to parental behavior in depressed adolescents. Biological Psychology, 90, 8087. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2012.02.013
Allen, N. B., & Sheeber, L. B. (Eds.). (2008a). Adolescent emotional development and the emergence of depressive disorders. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Allen, N. B., & Sheeber, L. B. (2008b). The importance of affective development for the emergence of depressive disorders during adolescence. In Allen, N. B. & Sheeber, L. B. (Eds.), Adolescent emotional development and the emergence of depressive disorders (pp. 310). New York: Cambridge University Press.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: Author.
Barabási, A.-L. (2011). The network takeover. Nature Physics, 8, 1416. doi:10.1038/nphys2188
Beardslee, W. R., Versage, E. M., & Gladstone, T. R. (1998). Children of affectively ill parents: A review of the past 10 years. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 37, 11341141.
Birmaher, B., Ryan, N. D., Williamson, D. E., Brent, D. A., Kaufman, J., Dahl, R. E., … Nelson, B. R. (1996). Childhood and adolescent depression: A review of the past 10 years. Part I. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 35, 14271439.
Blakemore, S.-J. (2012). Imaging brain development: The adolescent brain. NeuroImage, 61, 397406. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.11.080
Borsboom, D., & Cramer, A. O. J. (2013). Network analysis: An integrative approach to the structure of psychopathology. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 9, 91121. doi:10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-050212-185608
Brenning, K., Soenens, B., Braet, C., & Bosmans, G. (2012). Attachment and depressive symptoms in middle childhood and early adolescence: Testing the validity of the emotion regulation model of attachment. Personal Relationships, 19, 445464. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6811.2011.01372.x
Bringmann, L. F., Pe, M. L., Vissers, N., Ceulemans, E., Borsboom, D., Vanpaemel, W., … Kuppens, P. (2016). Assessing temporal emotion dynamics using networks. Assessment. Advance online publication. doi:10.1177/1073191116645909
Bringmann, L. F., Vissers, N., Wichers, M., Geschwind, N., Kuppens, P., Peeters, F., … Tuerlinckx, F. (2013). A network approach to psychopathology: New insights into clinical longitudinal data. PLOS ONE, 8, e60188. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060188
Brumariu, L. E., & Kerns, K. A. (2010). Parent–child attachment and internalizing symptoms in childhood and adolescence: A review of empirical findings and future directions. Development and Psychopathology, 22, 177203. doi:10.1017/S0954579409990344
Buckholdt, K. E., Parra, G. R., & Jobe-Shields, L. (2014). Intergenerational transmission of emotion dysregulation through parental invalidation of emotions: Implications for adolescent internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 23, 324332. doi:10.1007/s10826-013-9768-4
Bulteel, K., Tuerlinckx, F., Brose, A., & Ceulemans, E. (2016a). Clustering vector autoregressive models: Capturing qualitative differences in within-person dynamics. Frontiers in Psychology, 7. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01540
Bulteel, K., Tuerlinckx, F., Brose, A., & Ceulemans, E. (2016b). Using raw VAR regression coefficients to build networks can be misleading. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 51, 330344. doi:10.1080/00273171.2016.1150151
Cabrieto, J., Tuerlinckx, F., Kuppens, P., Grassmann, M., & Ceulemans, E. (2017). Detecting correlation changes in multivariate time series: A comparison of four non-parametric change point detection methods. Behavior Research Methods, 49, 9881005. doi:10.3758/s13428-016-0754-9
Chaplin, T. M. (2006). Anger, happiness, and sadness: Associations with depressive symptoms in late adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 35, 977986. doi:10.1007/s10964-006-9033-x
Cicchetti, D., & Toth, S. (1998). The development of depression in children and adolescents. American Psychologist, 53, 221241.
Cole, D. A., & Rehm, L. P. (1986). Family interaction patterns and childhood depression. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 14, 297314.
Costello, E. J., Erkanli, A., & Angold, A. (2006). Is there an epidemic of child or adolescent depression? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 47, 12631271. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2006.01682.x
Cummings, E. M., Davies, P., & Campbell, S. B. (2000). Developmental psychopathology and family process: Theory, research, and clinical implications. New York: Guilford Press.
Dahl, R. E. (2004). Adolescent brain development: A period of vulnerabilities and opportunities. Keynote Address. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 102, 122. doi:10.1196/annals.1308.001
Davies, P. T., & Cicchetti, D. (2004). Toward an integration of family systems and developmental psychopathology approaches. Development and Psychopathology, 16, 477481. doi:10.1017/S0954579404004626
Davies, P. T., & Cummings, E. M. (1994). Marital conflict and child adjustment: An emotional security hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 116, 387411. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.116.3.387
Davis, B., Hops, H., Alpert, A., & Sheeber, L. B. (1998). Child responses to parental conflict and their effect on adjustment: A study of triadic relations. Journal of Family Psychology, 12, 163177.
Davis, B., Sheeber, L., Hops, H., & Tildesley, E. (2000). Adolescent responses to depressive parental behaviors in problem-solving interactions: Implications for depressive symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 28, 451465. doi:10.1023/A:1005183622729
DeRose, L., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2008). Pubertal development in early adolescence: Implications for affective processes. In Allen, N. B. & Sheeber, L. B. (Eds.), Adolescent emotional development and the emergence of depressive disorders (pp. 5673). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Dujardin, A., Santens, T., Braet, C., De Raedt, R., Vos, P., Maes, B., & Bosmans, G. (2016). Middle childhood support-seeking behavior during stress: Links with self-reported attachment and future depressive symptoms. Child Development, 87, 326340. doi:10.1111/cdev.12491
Epskamp, S., Cramer, A. O. J., Waldorp, L. J., Schmittmann, V. D., & Borsboom, D. (2012). qgraph: Network visualizations of relationships in psychometric data. Journal of Statistical Software, 48, 118.
Fried, E. I., & Nesse, R. M. (2015). Depression is not a consistent syndrome: An investigation of unique symptom patterns in the STAR*D study. Journal of Affective Disorders, 172, 96102. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2014.10.010
Fried, E. I., van Borkulo, C. D., Cramer, A. O. J., Boschloo, L., Schoevers, R. A., & Borsboom, D. (2017). Mental disorders as networks of problems: A review of recent insights. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 52, 110. doi:10.1007/s00127-016-1319-z
Gjerde, P. F. (1986). The interpersonal structure of family interaction settings: Parent–adolescent relations in dyads and triads. Developmental Psychology, 22, 297304.
Gottman, J. M. (Ed.). (2002). The mathematics of marriage: Dynamic nonlinear models. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Gottman, J. M., Katz, L. F., & Hooven, C. (1996). Parental meta-emotion philosophy and the emotional life of families: Theoretical models and preliminary data. Journal of Family Psychology, 10, 243268.
Granic, I., Hollenstein, T., Dishion, T. J., & Patterson, G. R. (2003). Longitudinal analysis of flexibility and reorganization in early adolescence: A dynamic systems study of family interactions. Developmental Psychology, 39, 606617. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.39.3.606
Haefner, J. (2014). An application of Bowen family systems theory. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 35, 835841. doi:10.3109/01612840.2014.921257
Hamaker, E. L., Ceulemans, E., Grasman, R. P. P. P., & Tuerlinckx, F. (2015). Modeling affect dynamics: State of the art and future challenges. Emotion Review, 7, 316322. doi:10.1177/1754073915590619
Hollenstein, T. (2007). State space grids: Analyzing dynamics across development. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 31, 384396. doi:10.1177/0165025407077765
Hollenstein, T. (2013). State space grids: Depicting dynamics across development. New York: Springer.
Hollenstein, T., Allen, N. B., & Sheeber, L. (2016). Affective patterns in triadic family interactions: Associations with adolescent depression. Development and Psychopathology, 28, 8596. doi:10.1017/S0954579415000309
Hops, H., Biglan, A., Tolman, A., Arthur, J., & Longoria, N. (1995). Living in Family Environments (LIFE) coding system: Reference manual for coders. Eugene, OR: Oregon Research Institute.
Hunter, E. C., Hessler, D. M., & Fainsilber Katz, L. (2008). Familial processes related to affective development. In Allen, N. B. & Sheeber, L. (Eds.), Adolescent emotional development and the emergence of depressive disorders (pp. 262277). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ingram, R. E., Trenary, L., Odom, M., Berry, L., & Nelson, T. (2007). Cognitive, affective and social mechanisms in depression risk: Cognition, hostility, and coping style. Cognition and Emotion, 21, 7894. doi:10.1080/02699930600950778
Jaccard, P. (1912). The distribution of the flora in the alpine zone. New Phytologist, 11, 3750. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8137.1912.tb05611.x
Joormann, J., & Vanderlind, W. M. (2014). Emotion regulation in depression: The role of biased cognition and reduced cognitive control. Clinical Psychological Science, 2, 402421. doi:10.1177/2167702614536163
Katz, L. F., Maliken, A. C., & Stettler, N. M. (2012). Parental meta-emotion philosophy: A review of research and theoretical framework. Child Development Perspectives, 6, 417422. doi:10.1111/j.1750-8606.2012.00244.x
Katz, L. F., Shortt, J. W., Allen, N. B., Davis, B., Hunter, E., Leve, C., & Sheeber, L. (2014). Parental emotion socialization in clinically depressed adolescents: Enhancing and dampening positive affect. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 42, 205215. doi:10.1007/s10802-013-9784-2
Kauffman, S. A. (1969). Metabolic stability and epigenesis in randomly constructed genetic nets. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 22, 437467. doi:10.1016/0022-5193(69)90015-0
Kazdin, A. E., & Weisz, J. R. (1998). Identifying and developing empirically supported child and adolescent treatments. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66, 1936. doi:10.1037/0022-006X.66.1.19
Kesek, A., Zelazo, P. D., & Lewis, M. D. (2008). The development of executive cognitive function and emotion regulation in adolescence. In Allen, N. B. & Sheeber, L. B. (Eds.), Adolescent emotional development and the emergence of depressive disorders (pp. 135155). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Kuppens, P., Allen, N. B., & Sheeber, L. B. (2010). Emotional inertia and psychological maladjustment. Psychological Science, 21, 984991. doi:10.1177/0956797610372634
Lewinsohn, P. M., Clarke, G. N., Seeley, J. R., & Rohde, P. (1994). Major depression in community adolescents: Age at onset, episode duration, and time to recurrence. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 33, 809818. doi:10.1097/00004583-199407000-00006
Lewinsohn, P. M., Rohde, P., Klein, D. N., & Seeley, J. R. (1999). Natural course of adolescent major depressive disorder: I. Continuity into young adulthood. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 38, 5663. doi:10.1097/00004583-199901000-00020
Lewis, M. D., Lamey, A. V., & Douglas, L. (1999). A new dynamic systems method for the analysis of early socioemotional development. Developmental Science, 2, 457475. doi:10.1111/1467-7687.00090
Lichtwarck-Aschoff, A., Kunnen, S. E., & van Geert, P. L. C. (2009). Here we go again: A dynamic systems perspective on emotional rigidity across parent–adolescent conflicts. Developmental Psychology, 45, 13641375. doi:10.1037/a0016713
Lipps, G., Lowe, G. A., Gibson, R. C., Halliday, S., Morris, A., Clarke, N., & Wilson, R. N. (2012). Parenting and depressive symptoms among adolescents in four Caribbean societies. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 6, 31. doi:10.1186/1753-2000-6-31
Loon, L. M. A. V., de Ven, M. O. M. V., Doesum, K. T. M. V., Witteman, C. L. M., & Hosman, C. M. H. (2014). The relation between parental mental illness and adolescent mental health: The role of family factors. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 23, 12011214. doi:10.1007/s10826-013-9781-7
Lumino, R., Ragozini, G., van Duijn, M., & Vitale, M. P. (2016). A mixed-methods approach for analysing social support and social anchorage of single mothers’ personal networks. Quality & Quantity. Advance online publication. doi:10.1007/s11135-016-0439-6
Main, A., Paxton, A., & Dale, R. (2016). An exploratory analysis of emotion dynamics between mothers and adolescents during conflict discussions. Emotion, 16, 913928. doi:10.1037/emo0000180
Milevsky, A., Schlechter, M., Netter, S., & Keehn, D. (2007). Maternal and paternal parenting styles in adolescents: Associations with self-esteem, depression and life-satisfaction. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 16, 3947. doi:10.1007/s10826-006-9066-5
Minuchin, S. (1974). Families & family therapy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Morris, A. S., Silk, J. S., Steinberg, L., Myers, S. S., & Robinson, L. R. (2007). The role of the family context in the development of emotion regulation. Social Development, 16, 361388. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9507.2007.00389.x
Orvaschel, H., & Puig-Antich, J. (1994). Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School-Age Children—Epidemiologic version 5 (KSADS-E-5). Ft. Lauderdale, FL: Nova Southeastern University.
Parkinson, B. (1996). Emotions are social. British Journal of Psychology, 87, 663683. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8295.1996.tb02615.x
Patterson, G. R. (1982). Coercive family process (Vol. 3). Eugene, OR: Castalia.
Pe, M. L., Kircanski, K., Thompson, R. J., Bringmann, L. F., Tuerlinckx, F., Mestdagh, M., … Gotlib, I. H. (2015). Emotion-network density in major depressive disorder. Clinical Psychological Science, 3, 292300. doi:10.1177/2167702614540645
Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D Scale: A self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1, 385401. doi:10.1177/014662167700100306
Ramsey, M. A., & Gentzler, A. L. (2015). An upward spiral: Bidirectional associations between positive affect and positive aspects of close relationships across the life span. Developmental Review, 36, 58104. doi:10.1016/j.dr.2015.01.003
Restifo, K., & Bögels, S. (2009). Family processes in the development of youth depression: Translating the evidence to treatment. Clinical Psychology Review, 29, 294316. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2009.02.005
Scaramella, L. V., & Leve, L. D. (2004). Clarifying parent–child reciprocities during early childhood: The early childhood coercion model. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 7, 89107. doi:10.1023/B:CCFP.0000030287.13160.a3
Schumacher, M., Roßner, R., & Vach, W. (1996). Neural networks and logistic regression: Part I. Computational Statistics & Data Analysis, 21, 661682. doi:10.1016/0167-9473(95)00032-1
Schwartz, O. S., Sheeber, L. B., Dudgeon, P., & Allen, N. B. (2012). Emotion socialization within the family environment and adolescent depression. Clinical Psychology Review, 32, 447453. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2012.05.002
Schwartz, O. S., Simmons, J. G., Whittle, S., Byrne, M. L., Yap, M. B. H., Sheeber, L. B., & Allen, N. B. (2017). Affective parenting behaviors, adolescent depression, and brain development: A review of findings from the Oregon Adolescent Development Study. Child Development Perspectives, 11, 9096. doi:10.1111/cdep.12215
Seeley, J. R., & Lewinsohn, P. M. (2008). Epidemiology of mood disorders during adolescence: Implications for lifetime risk. In Allen, N. B. & Sheeber, L. B. (Eds.), Adolescent emotional development and the emergence of depressive disorders (pp. 3355). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sheeber, L. B., Allen, N., Davis, B., & Sorensen, E. (2000). Regulation of negative affect during mother–child problem-solving interactions: Adolescent depressive status and family processes. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 28, 467479. doi:10.1023/A:1005135706799
Sheeber, L. B., Allen, N. B., Leve, C., Davis, B., Shortt, J. W., & Katz, L. F. (2009). Dynamics of affective experience and behavior in depressed adolescents. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 50, 14191427. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2009.02148.x
Sheeber, L. B., Davis, B., Leve, C., Hops, H., & Tildesley, E. (2007). Adolescents’ relationships with their mothers and fathers: Associations with depressive disorder and subdiagnostic symptomatology. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 116, 144154. doi:10.1037/0021-843X.116.1.144
Sheeber, L. B., Hops, H., Andrews, J., Alpert, T., & Davis, B. (1998). Interactional processes in families with depressed and non-depressed adolescents: Reinforcement of depressive behavior. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 36, 417427.
Sheeber, L. B., Kuppens, P., Shortt, J. W., Katz, L. F., Davis, B., & Allen, N. B. (2012). Depression is associated with the escalation of adolescents’ dysphoric behavior during interactions with parents. Emotion, 12, 913918. doi:10.1037/a0025784
Steinberg, L. (2005). Cognitive and affective development in adolescence. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 9, 6974. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2004.12.005
Thompson, M. C., McKowen, J. W., & Rosenbaum Asarnow, J. (2008). Adolescent mood disorders and familial processes. In Allen, N. B. & Sheeber, L. B. (Eds.), Adolescent emotional development and the emergence of depressive disorders (pp. 280297). New York: Cambridge University Press.
van Borkulo, C. D., Borsboom, D., Epskamp, S., Blanken, T. F., Boschloo, L., Schoevers, R. A., & Waldorp, L. J. (2014). A new method for constructing networks from binary data. Scientific Reports, 4. doi:10.1038/srep05918
Van Kleef, G. A., De Dreu, C. K. W., & Manstead, A. S. R. (2010). An interpersonal approach to emotion in social decision making: The emotions as social information model. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 42, 4596. doi:10.1016/S0065-2601(10)42002-X
van Roekel, E., Masselink, M., Vrijen, C., Heininga, V. E., Bak, T., Nederhof, E., & Oldehinkel, A. J. (2016). Study protocol for a randomized controlled trial to explore the effects of personalized lifestyle advices and tandem skydives on pleasure in anhedonic young adults. BMC Psychiatry, 16. doi:10.1186/s12888-016-0880-z
Verboom, C. E., Sijtsema, J. J., Verhulst, F. C., Penninx, B. W. J. H., & Ormel, J. (2014). Longitudinal associations between depressive problems, academic performance, and social functioning in adolescent boys and girls. Developmental Psychology, 50, 247257. doi:10.1037/a0032547
Walls, T. A., & Schafer, J. L. (2005). Models for intensive longitudinal data. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Wenze, S. J., Gunthert, K. C., & Forand, N. R. (2007). Influence of dysphoria on positive and negative cognitive reactivity to daily mood fluctuations. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 45, 915927. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2006.08.010
Werner-Seidler, A., Banks, R., Dunn, B. D., & Moulds, M. L. (2013). An investigation of the relationship between positive affect regulation and depression. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 51, 4656. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2012.11.001
Wigman, J. T. W., van Os, J., Borsboom, D., Wardenaar, K. J., Epskamp, S., Klippel, A., … Wichers. (2015). Exploring the underlying structure of mental disorders: Cross-diagnostic differences and similarities from a network perspective using both a top-down and a bottom-up approach. Psychological Medicine, 45, 23752387. doi:10.1017/S0033291715000331
Yap, M. B. H., Allen, N. B., & Ladouceur, C. D. (2008). Maternal socialization of positive affect: The impact of invalidation on adolescent emotion regulation and depressive symptomatology. Child Development, 79, 14151431. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2008.01196.x
Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Bodner et al supplementary material
Figures S1-S6

 Word (490 KB)
490 KB
Supplementary materials

Bodner et al supplementary material
Tables S1-S3

 Word (30 KB)
30 KB
Supplementary materials

Bodner et al supplementary material

 Word (21 KB)
21 KB


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed