, Volume 42, Issue 8, pp 1169-1182,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Different Trajectories of Depressive Symptoms in Children and Adolescents: Predictors and Differences in Girls and Boys

Abstract

The development of depressive symptoms in childhood and adolescence can follow different pathways. This study examined heterogeneity in the development of self-reported depressive symptoms and the predictive influence of mothers’ depressive symptoms, the number of life events, and loss events via growth mixture modeling over a four-year period in a large community sample of German children and adolescents (N = 3,902; mean age 11.39 years; 49.6 % female). This procedure was conducted for the total sample as well as for separate samples of girls and boys. Four different classes of trajectories for the total and the girls’ model were identified, but only three classes for the boys. Girls showed higher intercepts and stronger increases in symptoms over time, whereas boys displayed stronger decreases. In the total model, mothers’ depressive symptoms and the number of life events significantly increased the level of depressive symptoms. In the gender models, only mothers’ depressive symptoms showed significant influence on the level of symptoms in girls and boys, whereas for life events this was only true for boys. In every model, the significant predictors discriminated at least between some classes. Loss events showed no significant influence in any model. In sum, there are meaningful differences in the development of depressive symptoms in girls and boys. These results have several implications for prevention and future research.