Behavior in Early Years Predict Depression in Adolescence


Anti-social behavior in young girls and anxiety in both young girls and boys are signs of adolescent depression.

Anti-social behavior in young girls and anxiety in both young girls and boys are signs of adolescent depression, a new study from the University of Washington (UW) shows. Surprisingly, early signs of depression were not a good predictor of depression in later years, the researchers noted, which they found surprising.

More than 800 children in first or second grade completed surveys that calculated levels of depression, anxiety, and anti-social behavior, as well as other measures that were not part of this study. Parents and teachers provided information about the children’s anti-social behavior and social competency; educators also detailed how well the children performed academically.

"Anti-social behavior has typically been viewed as a big problem among boys, so it tends to be ignored among girls,” said James Mazza, professor of education psychology and lead author of the study. “Boys with early anti-social behavior typically go on to show more anti-social behavior while girls may turn inward with symptoms, morphing into other mental health problems such as depression eating disorders, anxiety and suicidal behavior during adolescence"

"One finding from this study that is a mind-grabber is that young children can identify themselves as being anxious and depressed," said Mazza. "When they had scores that were elevated, we were a bit surprised because we thought they would say, 'My life is fun and I play a lot.' But they are able to understand and report feeling depressed or anxious, and tell us so. This suggests giving health surveys in early elementary school is a good idea and we should talk to kids in the first and second grades because they can give us valuable information."

The research was published ahead of print in the online edition of The Journal of Early Adolescence.

specialty: psychiatry

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