, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 13-24

Early Adversity and the Prospective Prediction of Depressive and Anxiety Disorders in Adolescents

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Abstract

The current study was a prospective exploration of the specificity of early childhood adversities as predictors of anxiety and depressive disorders in adolescents. Participants were 816 adolescents (414~males, 402 females) with diagnostic information collected at age 15; information on early adversities had been collected from the mothers during pregnancy, at birth, age 6 months, and age 5~years for a related study. Adolescents with “pure’’ anxiety disorders were compared with adolescents with “pure’’ depressive disorders (major depressive disorder, dysthymia), and these groups were compared to never-ill controls. Analyses controlled for gender and maternal depression and anxiety disorders. Results indicated that adolescents with anxiety disorders were more likely than depressed youth to have been exposed to various early stressors, such as maternal prenatal stress, multiple maternal partner changes, and more total adversities, whereas few early childhood variables predicted depressive disorders. Even when current family stressors at age 15 were controlled, early adversity variables again significantly predicted anxiety disorders. Results suggest that anxiety disorders may be more strongly related to early stress exposure, while depressive disorders may be related to more proximal stressors or to early stressors not assessed in the current study.