Empirical Research

Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 449-459

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Being Mum’s Confidant, a Boon or Bane? Examining Gender Differences in the Association of Maternal Disclosure with Adolescents’ Depressive Feelings

  • Anna Lichtwarck-AschoffAffiliated withBehavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen Email author 
  • , Catrin FinkenauerAffiliated withClinical Child and Family Studies, VU University Amsterdam
  • , Haske van de VorstAffiliated withBehavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen
  • , Rutger C. M. E. EngelsAffiliated withBehavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen


This article reports on a longitudinal study investigating gender differences in the association between maternal disclosure and adolescents’ depressive symptoms. Little research has examined the relationship of parental disclosure to adolescents’ depressive symptoms and research on sex differences is particularly lacking. In a sample of 428 families with a mean age of 13.36 (52% female) of the target adolescents, maternal and children’s disclosure and depressive symptoms were assessed twice with an interval of 4 years. Controlling for the quality of the parent–child relationship and levels of maternal depressive symptoms, the analyses revealed an interaction effect for child’s gender, moderating the effect of maternal disclosure on adolescents’ depressive symptoms. Higher levels of maternal disclosure were accompanied by lower levels of depressive symptoms in girls and higher levels of depressive symptoms in boys. Gender differences in socialization, communication, individuation and social networks might explain why daughters and sons are differently affected by maternal disclosure.


Maternal disclosure Parent–child relationship Adolescence Depressive symptoms Gender differences Longitudinal design