Empirical research

Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 39, Issue 6, pp 579-593

First online:

Identifying Trajectories of Adolescents’ Depressive Phenomena: An Examination of Early Risk Factors

  • James J. MazzaAffiliated withEducational Psychology, University of Washington Email author 
  • , Charles B. FlemingAffiliated withSocial Development Research Group, School of Social Work, University of Washington
  • , Robert D. AbbottAffiliated withEducational Psychology, University of Washington
  • , Kevin P. HaggertyAffiliated withSocial Development Research Group, School of Social Work, University of Washington
  • , Richard F. CatalanoAffiliated withSocial Development Research Group, School of Social Work, University of Washington

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Abstract

Few studies have examined risk factors of childhood and early adolescent depressive symptomatology trajectories. This study examined self-report depressive symptomatology across a 6-year time period from 2nd to 8th grade to identify latent groups of individuals with similar patterns of depressive phenomena in a sample of 951 children (440 girls, 511 boys). Analyses, using semiparametric group modeling (SGM), identified 5 trajectory groups for girls and boys: low depressed stables, low depressed risers, mildly depressed stables, moderately depressed changers, and moderately depressed risers. Individual risk factors, with the exception of shy/withdrawn behavior, were significantly different across trajectory group membership for boys and girls, as was low-income status for boys. Boys in the low depressed and mildly depressed stable trajectory groups had significantly higher levels of antisocial behavior, attention problems, and lower social competency compared to girls in similar groups. These results suggest that universal prevention programs implemented in early elementary school that target selected risk factors may be helpful in reducing future adolescent mental health problems, specifically depressive symptomatology.

Keywords

Trajectories Children’s depression Early risk factors