Background. Little is known about the extent to which negative life events predict depressive symptoms in ethnically diverse groups or whether this relationship is proximal or enduring.
Method. The relationship between negative life events in adolescence and depressive symptoms in young adulthood was studied in a sample of over 1300 black and white female adolescents. Five domains of life events were assessed at age 16 years and depressive symptoms were measured at age 18 and again at age 21 years. Questions of interest included whether the association continued over time and whether there were specific domains of life events that predicted symptoms better than others.
Results. The total number of negative life events at time 1 predicted depressive symptoms at both time 2 and time 3. Interpersonal loss events and other adversities, however, predicted depressive symptoms only at time 2, whereas at time 3, only interpersonal trauma was a significant predictor. No ethnic differences were found, indicating that the relationship between life events and depressive symptoms appears to be similar for black and white adolescent girls.
Conclusions. The results suggest that negative life events and some specific type of stressors increase the likelihood of the onset of depression symptoms in future years, for both black and white girls. Early preventive efforts should be directed at adolescents who experience loss due to death of a significant other, traumatic events, and psychosocial adversities to forestall the development of depressive symptoms.