Thursday, February 19, 2009

Girls Gone Wild Getting Dissed?

Who's most likely to become depressed in adolescence?

A. Young girls who exhibit depression
B. Young girls who exhibit anti-social behavior
C. Young girls who exhibit anxiety

If you answered "A" - think again. Anti-social behavior and anxiety best predict adolescent depression in girls. Researchers at University of Wisconsin followed first- and second-graders for 7 years and found those who showed anxiety and anti-social behavior were the most likely to report depression as adolescents. You can find the study abstract over at The Journal of Early Adolescence.

A few curiosities here. First, we psychologists often think the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. In other words, depression begets depression. So we could be wrong here.

Or maybe not. As lead author James Mazza suggested in a write-up at Science Daily, it may be that there's just less depression diagnosed in younger children. Not many children are even assessed for depression, and commonly not until early adolescence. And hey, thanks Science Daily for including that real possibility.

Second interesting aspect - we typically think of anti-social behavior as a boy thing, though this study suggests it should be addressed for girls too since it appears to predict future behavior.

As Mazza explained:

"Anti-social behavior has typically been viewed as a big problem among boys, so it tends to be ignored among girls. 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 "

So let's not forget about those young girls going wild...

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