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Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Predict Depressive Symptom Trajectory from Early to Middle Adolescence


Major depressive disorder begins to increase in early adolescence and is associated with significant impairment (e.g., suicidality). Difficulties in emotion regulation (ER) have been associated with depressive symptoms; however, little research has examined this relation over time beginning in early adolescence. Starting when they were 11–14 years old, 246 adolescents (nboys = 126; nwhite = 158) completed self-report questionnaires on their ER at Time 1 and depressive symptoms every year for 2 years. Results revealed that overall difficulties in ER (and limited access to ER strategies) at Time 1 predicted depressive symptoms both cross-sectionally and longitudinally. Gender moderated this relation cross-sectionally, such that higher overall ER difficulties at Time 1 was more strongly associated with higher depressive symptoms for girls than for boys. These findings suggest that depression prevention efforts should promote adaptive ER in early adolescence, particularly for girls, in order to prevent the increases in depressive symptoms seen into middle adolescence.

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This research was supported in part by grants from the National Institutes of Health, including R01-DA033431 (PI: Chaplin) and F31-DA041790 (PI: Turpyn).

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Correspondence to Stefanie F. Gonçalves.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Gonçalves, S.F., Chaplin, T.M., Turpyn, C.C. et al. Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Predict Depressive Symptom Trajectory from Early to Middle Adolescence. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev 50, 618–630 (2019).

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  • Emotion regulation
  • Adolescents
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Longitudinal