Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 39, Issue 10, pp 1240–1251 | Cite as

Older Romantic Partners and Depressive Symptoms During Adolescence

  • Abigail A. HaydonEmail author
  • Carolyn Tucker Halpern
Empirical Research


Although developmental theory predicts that adolescent romantic relationships have important benefits, empirical evidence suggests that they may also carry substantial psychosocial risk. This study uses data from 4,948 respondents (50% female) in Wave I and Wave II of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to examine the association between involvement with an older romantic partner and depressive symptoms during adolescence. Ordinary least squares regression models compared Wave II depressive symptoms among respondents with older partners (defined as an age difference of 2 or more years) to respondents with same-age or younger partners, controlling for baseline depressive symptoms and sociodemographic characteristics. Ten percent of females and two percent of males reported having an older romantic partner at Wave II. Among females only, involvement with an older romantic partner was associated with a modest but significant increase in depressive symptoms between waves. This association was largely mediated by increases in substance use. Findings suggest that involvement with an older male partner during adolescence may increase the risk of poor emotional outcomes among females.


Depression Romantic relationships Longitudinal 



This research uses data from Add Health, a program project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and funded by grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 23 other federal agencies and foundations. Special acknowledgment is due Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Information on how to obtain the Add Health data files is available on the Add Health website ( No direct support was received from grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis. Ms. Haydon’s time on this project was supported by the Carolina Population Center, NICHD Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA predoctoral traineeship, grant number NIH-NICHD T32-HD07168.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Maternal and Child Health, Gillings School of Global Public HealthUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Carolina Population CenterUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA

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