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04-06-2019 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 1/2020

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 1/2020

Maternal Depressive Symptoms and Adolescent Health Risk Problems: The Role of School Engagement

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 1/2020
Celia J. Fulco, Megan Bears Augustyn, Kimberly L. Henry
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Maternal depressive symptoms disrupt positive youth development, though the pervasiveness of this disruption is understudied. Additionally, it remains unknown whether prosocial factors such as adolescent school engagement may buffer against this risk factor. Using multigenerational, longitudinal data spanning ten years from an ethnically diverse sample of mother-child dyads (66% Black, 17% Hispanic, and 17% White), this study examines the effect of maternal depressive symptoms in late childhood (ages 8–13) on the development and progression of offspring depressive symptoms, substance use, and delinquent behavior during adolescence (ages 14–17). Further, the study examines whether school engagement moderates the ill effects of maternal depressive symptoms. Mother-son (n = 212) and mother-daughter (n = 215) dyads are compared to assess for similarities and differences between male and female offspring. The results indicate that offspring of mothers with greater maternal depressive symptoms are more likely to display higher levels of depressive symptoms, substance use, and delinquency throughout adolescence, although important nuances emerge across outcome and child sex. Additionally, while school engagement itself is associated with reduced depressive symptoms, substance use and delinquency among adolescents, it is not profound enough to offset the risk posed by maternal depressive symptoms. The findings of this study reinforce the pervasive, negative, intergenerational impact of maternal depressive symptoms and has implications for prevention and intervention efforts for adolescent health risk problems.

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