Girls’ and Boys’ Disclosure about Problems as a Predictor of Changes in Depressive Symptoms Over Time
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Gender differences consistently emerge in adolescents’ friendships, with girls disclosing to friends about troubles and concerns more than boys. Although theories regarding possible emotional benefits of catharsis, as well as everyday assumptions, suggest that talking about problems makes people feel better, research regarding the impact of disclosure about problems on depressive symptoms has not been conclusive. In the current study, 79 early adolescent high school students residing in the Southeastern United States (73% European American) were observed talking about problems with a friend. Of primary interest was whether disclosure to friends predicted changes in self-reported depression over 6 months for girls and boys. Although girls disclosed to friends about problems (especially interpersonal problems) more than did boys, disclosure did not buffer girls from the development of depressive symptoms over time. In contrast, boys’ disclosure predicted their experiencing fewer depressive symptoms 6 months later. Results suggest that talking to friends may not be an especially effective method of coping with problems for girls.