Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, 39:1227

First online:

Childhood Social Withdrawal, Interpersonal Impairment, and Young Adult Depression: A Mediational Model

  • Shaina J. KatzAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles Email author 
  • , Christopher C. ConwayAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles
  • , Constance L. HammenAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles
  • , Patricia A. BrennanAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Emory University
  • , Jake M. NajmanAffiliated withSchool of Population Health, University of Queensland, Australia

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Building on interpersonal theories of depression, the current study sought to explore whether early childhood social withdrawal serves as a risk factor for depressive symptoms and diagnoses in young adulthood. The researchers hypothesized that social impairment at age 15 would mediate the association between social withdrawal at age 5 and depression by age 20. This mediational model was tested in a community sample of 702 Australian youth followed from mother’s pregnancy to youth age 20. Structural equation modeling analyses found support for a model in which childhood social withdrawal predicted adolescent social impairment, which, in turn, predicted depression in young adulthood. Additionally, gender was found to moderate the relationship between adolescent social impairment and depression in early adulthood, with females exhibiting a stronger association between social functioning and depression at the symptom and diagnostic level. This study illuminates one potential pathway from early developing social difficulties to later depressive symptoms and disorders.


Social withdrawal Interpersonal functioning Social impairment Depression Community sample Longitudinal studies