Deficits in the development of nonverbal behaviour and mild depression in adolescence: Predisposition, state, or scar?
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Introduction. Deficits in gender-specific nonverbal behaviours have been linked to depressive symptoms in adolescence. The present research examines differences between (mildly) depressed and nondepressed adolescents in conversation with nondepressed same-age, same-sex peers. The research is limited to the differences in ‘gazing while speaking’, ‘gazing while listening’ and ‘smiling’. These behaviours have been examined before, during and after the expression of a depression. Methods. Firstly, longitudinal three-wave data of never depressed 12-16-year-old adolescents (N = 42) are reported. Secondly, observations of adolescents before and during the expression of a depression (N = 28) are compared to matched controls. Thirdly, observations of adolescents during and after (N = 29) the expression of a depression are compared to matched controls. Results. Girls behaved more other oriented compared to boys. They gazed more while speaking and while listening and smiled more. Little development was detected. In addition, both depressed boys and girls demonstrated a deviation from gender role expectations in gazing, especially in gazing while listening compared to controls. The deviation was independent of conditions (before-during-after). Discussion. The deviation can be seen before, during and after the expression of a depression, which is in line with the predisposition theory and the social skills deficits model. The deviation in gender-specific nonverbal behaviour constitutes a possible risk factor for the development of a depression. However, further steps should be made to inquire how these deviations can lead to a depression, and especially in females.