Social anxiety and depressive symptoms dramatically increase and frequently co-occur during adolescence. Although research indicates that general interpersonal stressors, peer victimization, and familial emotional maltreatment predict symptoms of social anxiety and depression, it remains unclear how these stressors contribute to the sequential development of these internalizing symptoms. Thus, the present study examined the sequential development of social anxiety and depressive symptoms following the occurrence of interpersonal stressors, peer victimization, and familial emotional maltreatment. Participants included 410 early adolescents (53 % female; 51 % African American; Mean age =12.84 years) who completed measures of social anxiety and depressive symptoms at three time points (Times 1–3), as well as measures of general interpersonal stressors, peer victimization, and emotional maltreatment at Time 2. Path analyses revealed that interpersonal stressors, peer victimization, and emotional maltreatment predicted both depressive and social anxiety symptoms concurrently. However, depressive symptoms significantly mediated the pathway from interpersonal stressors, peer victimization, and familial emotional maltreatment to subsequent levels of social anxiety symptoms. In contrast, social anxiety did not mediate the relationship between these stressors and subsequent depressive symptoms. There was no evidence of sex or racial differences in these mediational pathways. Findings suggest that interpersonal stressors, including the particularly detrimental stressors of peer victimization and familial emotional maltreatment, may predict both depressive and social anxiety symptoms; however, adolescents who have more immediate depressogenic reactions may be at greater risk for later development of symptoms of social anxiety.
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One of the goals of the larger longitudinal study was to examine potential racial differences in the emergence of depressive and anxiety disorders during adolescence. For this purpose, only adolescents who self-identified as African American or Caucasian were included in the larger study. Further, maternal psychopathology has been linked to the development of depression in their offspring (Goodman et al. 2011). Thus, mothers were selected to participate in this longitudinal study to examine all variables of interest related to the larger longitudinal study goals.
The CDI variables exhibited significant skew. Therefore, the analyses also were conducted using the transformed variable. Results exhibited a similar pattern of findings. Thus, the original results are reported for ease of interpretability.
Following reviewer suggestions to examine the specificity of our findings to social anxiety versus more general anxiety, we also examined the MASC Total score in relation to our hypotheses. Our results yielded a similar pattern of results for all analyses, which indicates that the pattern of results were not unique to social anxiety, but also occurred with general anxiety as well. However, given that the MASC total is comprised of the social anxiety subscale as well, it is difficult to draw firm conclusions regarding the contribution of social versus general anxiety. Therefore, future research is needed to replicate these findings with distinct measures of social and general anxiety to determine specificity versus unique relationships with these stressors and depression.
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This research was supported by National Institute of Mental Health grants MH79369 and MH101168 to Lauren B. Alloy. Jessica L. Hamilton was supported by National Research Service Award F31MH106184 from the National Institute of Mental Health. Carrie M. Potter was supported by National Research Service Award F31DE024689 from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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Hamilton, J.L., Potter, C.M., Olino, T.M. et al. The Temporal Sequence of Social Anxiety and Depressive Symptoms Following Interpersonal Stressors During Adolescence. J Abnorm Child Psychol 44, 495–509 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-015-0049-0