Accumulation of Stressors as a Predictor of Depression Amongst Early to Middle Adolescence
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Background: Depression rapidly increases during adolescence, particularly for girls. One theory to explain this gender difference is the accumulation theory which suggests that girls face different, and in part more, risk factors that co-occur with adolescence compared to boys. The accumulation was tested against the alternative theory which suggests that girls and boys have similar risk factors, but girls value you them more negatively than boys. Methods: The study was made up of four waves, with approximately nine months between each wave, whereby predictors from various domains were investigated. The Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI) was administered to a large school population (n = 406) at all waves. At wave one participants were aged 11-15 years. Perceived rejection was measured using schematic faces, while pubertal timing, school transition and negative life events were examined with a self-report questionnaire. Negative life events included divorce, sickness of self, sickness of a close family member and psychological complaints. Results: Perceived rejection and psychological complaints significantly predicted adolescent depression. Additionally, girls perceived more rejection and reported more psychological complaints compared to boys. Psychological complaints were age specific. Multiple co-occurring risk factors did not strengthen each other’s negative effects. As such, there is reason to believe that part A of the accumulation theory explains gender difference in adolescent depression. Conclusions: Overall, this study provided new insight into cumulative effects in the course of early life depression. The gender difference in adolescent depression is partly explained by the fact that girls tend to experience more co-occurring challenged during this period compared to their male counterparts.