Skip to main content

Low Social Status Markers: Do They Predict Depressive Symptoms in Adolescence?

Abstract

Some markers of social disadvantage are associated robustly with depressive symptoms among adolescents: female gender and lower socioeconomic status (SES), respectively. Others are associated equivocally, notably black v. white race/ethnicity. Few studies examine whether markers of social disadvantage by gender, SES, and race/ethnicity jointly predict self-reported depressive symptoms during adolescence; this was our goal. Secondary analyses were conducted on data from a socioeconomically diverse community-based cohort study of non-Hispanic black and white adolescents (N = 1,263, 50.4% female). Multivariable general linear models tested whether female gender, black race/ethnicity, and lower SES (assessed by parent education and household income) and their interactions predicted greater depressive symptoms reported on the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale. Models adjusted for age and pubertal status. Univariate analyses revealed more depressive symptoms in females, blacks, and participants with lower SES. Multivariable models showed females across both racial/ethnic groups reported greater depressive symptoms; blacks demonstrated more depressive symptoms than did whites, but when SES was included this association disappeared. Exploratory analyses suggested blacks gained less mental health benefit from increased SES. However, there were no statistically significant interactions among gender, race/ethnicity, or SES. Taken together, we conclude that complex patterning among low social status domains within gender, race/ethnicity, and SES predicts depressive symptoms among adolescents.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Bowleg, L. (2008). When Black + Lesbian + Woman ≠ Black Lesbian Woman: The methodological challenges of qualitative and quantitative intersectionality research. Sex Roles, 59(5–6), 312–325.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Casper, R. C., Belanoff, J., & Offer, D. (1996). Gender differences, but no racial group differences, in self-reported psychiatric symptoms in adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 35(4), 500–508.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chen, Y., Subramanian, S. V., Acevedo-Garcia, D., & Kawachi, I. (2005). Women’s status and depressive symptoms: A multilevel analysis. Social Science and Medicine, 60(1), 49–60.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Colditz, G. A., Sellers, T. A., & Trapido, E. (2006). Epidemiology—identifying the causes and preventability of cancer? Nature Reviews Cancer, 6(1), 75–83.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cole, E. R. (2009). Intersectionality and research in psychology. American Psychologist, 64(3), 170–180.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cole, E. R., & Omari, S. R. (2003). Race, class and the dilemmas of upward mobility for African Americans. Journal of Social Issues, 59(4), 785–802.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Copeland, W. E., Shanahan, L., Costello, E. J., & Angold, A. (2009). Childhood and adolescent psychiatric disorders as predictors of young adult disorders. Archives of General Psychiatry, 66(7), 764–772.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Costello, E. J., Pine, D. S., Hammen, C., March, J. S., Plotsky, P. M., Weissman, M. M., et al. (2002). Development and natural history of mood disorders. Biological Psychiatry, 52(6), 529–542.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Costello, D. M., Swendsen, J., Rose, J. S., & Dierker, L. C. (2008). Risk and protective factors associated with trajectories of depressed mood from adolescence to early adulthood. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 76(2), 173–183.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cummings, J. L., & Jackson, P. B. (2008). Race, gender, and SES disparities in self-assessed health, 1974–2004. Research on Aging, 30(2), 137–168.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dolan, L. M., Bean, J., D’Alessio, D., Cohen, R. M., Morrison, J. A., Goodman, E., et al. (2005). Frequency of abnormal carbohydrate metabolism and diabetes in a population-based screening of adolescents. Journal of Pediatrics, 146(6), 751–758.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Franko, D. L., Striegel-Moore, R. H., Bean, J., Barton, B. A., Biro, F., Kraemer, H. C., et al. (2005). Self-reported symptoms of depression in late adolescence to early adulthood: A comparison of African American and Caucasian females. Journal of Adolescent Health, 37(6), 526–529.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gilman, S. E., Kawachi, I., Fitzmaurice, G. M., & Buka, S. L. (2002). Socioeconomic status in childhood and the lifetime risk of major depression. International Journal of Epidemiology, 31(2), 359–367.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gilman, S. E., Kawachi, I., Fitzmaurice, G. M., & Buka, S. L. (2003). Socio-economic status, family disruption and residential stability in childhood: Relation to onset, recurrence and remission of major depression. Psychological Medicine, 33(8), 1341–1355.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Goodman, E. (1999). The role of socioeconomic status gradients in explaining differences in US adolescents’ health. American Journal of Public Health, 89(10), 1522–1528.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Goodman, E., Adler, N. E., Daniels, S. R., Morrison, J. A., Slap, G. B., & Dolan, L. M. (2003). Impact of objective and subjective social status on obesity in a biracial cohort of adolescents. Obesity Research, 11(8), 1018–1026.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Goodman, E., Daniels, S. R., & Dolan, L. M. (2007a). Socioeconomic disparities in insulin resistance: Results from the Princeton school district study. Psychosomatic Medicine, 69(1), 61–67.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Goodman, E., Huang, B., Schafer-Kalkhoff, T., & Adler, N. E. (2007b). Perceived socioeconomic status: A new type of identity that influences adolescents’ self-rated health. Journal of Adolescent Health, 41(5), 479–487.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Goodman, E., McEwen, B. S., Dolan, L. M., Schafer-Kalkhoff, T., & Adler, N. E. (2005a). Social disadvantage and adolescent stress. Journal of Adolescent Health, 37(6), 484–492.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Goodman, E., McEwen, B. S., Huang, B., Dolan, L. M., & Adler, N. E. (2005b). Social inequalities in biomarkers of cardiovascular risk in adolescence. Psychosomatic Medicine, 67(1), 9–15.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Grabe, S., & Hyde, J. S. (2006). Ethnicity and body dissatisfaction among women in the United States: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 132(4), 622–640.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Graber, J. A., Lewinsohn, P. M., Seeley, J. R., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (1997). Is psychopathology associated with the timing of pubertal development? Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 36(12), 1768–1776.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Grant, K., Lyons, A., Landis, D., Cho, M. H., Scudiero, M., Reynolds, L., et al. (1999). Gender, body image, and depressive symptoms among low-income African American adolescents. Journal of Social Issues, 55(2), 299–315.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Inhorn, M. C., & Whittle, K. L. (2001). Feminism meets the “new” epidemiologies: Toward an appraisal of antifeminist biases in epidemiological research on women’s health. Social Science and Medicine, 53(5), 553–567.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jackson, P. B., & Stewart, Q. T. (2003). A research agenda for the black middle class: Work stress, survival strategies, and mental health. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 44(3), 442–455.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jackson, P. B., & Williams, D. R. (2006). The intersection of race, gender, and SES: Health paradoxes. In A. J. Schulz & L. Mullings (Eds.), Gender, race, class, and health: Intersectional approaches (pp. 131–162). San Francisco, CA US: Jossey-Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  • Johnson, J. G., Cohen, P., & Kasen, S. (2009). Minor depression during adolescence and mental health outcomes during adulthood. British Journal of Psychiatry, 195(3), 264–265.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jun, H. J., Subramanian, S. V., Gortmaker, S., & Kawachi, I. (2004). A multilevel analysis of women’s status and self-rated health in the United States. Journal of the American Medical Women’s Association, 59(3), 172–180.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kawachi, I., Adler, N. E., & Dow, W. H. (2010). Money, schooling, and health: Mechanisms and causal evidence. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1186, 56–68.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kawachi, I., Daniels, N., & Robinson, D. E. (2005). Health disparities by race and class: Why both matter. Health Affairs, 24(2), 343–352.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • King, D. K. (1988). Multiple jeopardy, multiple consciousness: The context of a black feminist ideology. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 14(1), 42–72.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Krieger, N. (2005). Embodiment: A conceptual glossary for epidemiology. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 59(5), 350–355.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Krieger, N., Rowley, D. L., Herman, A. A., Avery, B., & Phillips, M. T. (1993). Racism, sexism, and social class: Implications for studies of health, disease, and well-being. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 9(6 Supplement), 82–122.

    Google Scholar 

  • Krieger, N., Williams, D. R., & Moss, N. E. (1997). Measuring social class in US public health research: Concepts, methodologies, and guidelines. Annual Review of Public Health, 18(1), 341–378.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kristman, V., Manno, M., & Côté, P. (2004). Loss to follow-up in cohort studies: How much is too much? European Journal of Epidemiology, 19(8), 751–760.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mahalingam, R., & Jackson, B. (2007). Idealized cultural beliefs about gender: Implications for mental health. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 42(12), 1012–1023.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McLeod, J. D., & Owens, T. J. (2004). Psychological well-being in the early life course: Variations by socioeconomic status, gender, and race/ethnicity. Social Psychology Quarterly, 67(3), 257–278.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mendelson, T., Kubzansky, L. D., Datta, G. D., & Buka, S. L. (2008). Relation of female gender and low socioeconomic status to internalizing symptoms among adolescents: A case of double jeopardy? Social Science and Medicine, 66(6), 1284–1296.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nolen-Hoeksema, S., & Girgus, J. S. (1994). The emergence of gender differences in depression during adolescence. Psychological Bulletin, 115(3), 424–443.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Osborne, J. (2002). Notes on the use of data transformations. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 8(6) Retrieved December 2, 2005 from http://PAREonline.net/getvn.asp?v=8&n=6.

  • Perreira, K. M., Deeb-Sossa, N., Harris, K. M., & Bollen, K. (2005). What are we measuring? An evaluation of the CES-D across race/ethnicity and immigrant generation. Social Forces, 83(4), 1567–1602.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Petersen, A. C., Compas, B. E., Brooks-Gunn, J., Stemmler, M., Ey, S., & Grant, K. E. (1993). Depression in adolescence. American Psychologist, 48(2), 155–168.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pumariega, A. J., Johnson, N. P., Sheridan, D., & Cuffe, S. P. (1996). The influence of race and gender on depressive and substance abuse symptoms in high-risk adolescents. Cultural Diversity and Mental Health, 2(2), 115–123.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Purdie-Vaughns, V., & Eibach, R. P. (2008). Intersectional invisibility: The distinctive advantages and disadvantages of multiple subordinate-group identities. Sex Roles, 59(5–6), 377–391.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D scale: A self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1(3), 385–401.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Radloff, L. S. (1991). The use of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale in adolescents and young adults. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 20(2), 149–166.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Roberts, R. E., Roberts, C. R., & Chen, Y. R. (1997). Ethnocultural differences in prevalence of adolescent depression. American Journal of Community Psychology, 25(1), 95–110.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Santor, D. A., Zuroff, D. C., Ramsay, J. O., Cervantes, P., & Palacios, J. (1995). Examining scale discriminability in the BDI and CES-D as a function of depressive severity. Psychological Assessment, 7(2), 131–139.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schraedley, P. K., Gotlib, I. H., & Hayward, C. (1999). Gender differences in correlates of depressive symptoms in adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 25(2), 98–108.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sellers, R. M., Copeland-Linder, N., Martin, P. P., & Lewis, R. L. (2006). Racial identity matters: The relationship between racial discrimination and psychological functioning in African American adolescents. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 16(2), 187–216.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Siegel, J. M., Aneshensel, C. S., Taub, B., Cantwell, D. P., & Driscoll, A. K. (1998). Adolescent depressed mood in a multiethnic sample. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 27(4), 413–427.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Takeuchi, D. T., Williams, D. R., & Adair, R. K. (1991). Economic stress in the family and children’s emotional and behavioral problems. Journal of Marriage and Family, 53(4), 1031–1041.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thompson, M., & Sekaquaptewa, D. (2002). When being different is detrimental: Solo status and the performance of women and racial minorities. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 2(1), 183–203.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tracy, M., Zimmerman, F. J., Galea, S., McCauley, E., & Vander Stoep, A. (2008). What explains the relation between family poverty and childhood depressive symptoms? Journal of Psychiatric Research, 42(14), 1163–1175.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Van Voorhees, B. W., Paunesku, D., Kuwabara, S. A., Basu, A., Gollan, J., Hankin, B. L., et al. (2008). Protective and vulnerability factors predicting new-onset depressive episode in a representative of U.S. adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 42(6), 605–616.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Walsemann, K. M., Gee, G. C., & Geronimus, A. T. (2009). Ethnic differences in trajectories of depressive symptoms: Disadvantage in family background, high school experiences, and adult characteristics. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 50(1), 82–98.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Warner, L. R. (2008). A best practices guide to intersectional approaches in psychological research. Sex Roles, 59(5–6), 454–463.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Weissman, M. M., Wolk, S., Goldstein, R. B., Moreau, D., Adams, P., Greenwald, S., et al. (1999). Depressed adolescents grown up. Journal of the American Medical Association, 281(18), 1707–1713.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wight, R. G., Aneshensel, C. S., Botticello, A. L., & Sepulveda, J. E. (2005). A multilevel analysis of ethnic variation in depressive symptoms among adolescents in the United States. Social Science and Medicine, 60(9), 2073–2084.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Williams, D. R., & Jackson, P. B. (2005). Social sources of racial disparities in health. Health Affairs, 24(2), 325–334.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

This project was supported by grant #2151 from the WT Grant Foundation and National Institutes of Health grant HD41527. Portions of this manuscript were presented at the Association for Psychological Science 19th Annual Convention. The authors thank the students, parents, teachers, and administrators of the Princeton City School District and the PSD Study staff. Thanks also to Christina Souza and Victoria Churchill for support with manuscript preparation.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Benita Jackson.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Jackson, B., Goodman, E. Low Social Status Markers: Do They Predict Depressive Symptoms in Adolescence?. Race Soc Probl 3, 119–128 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12552-011-9047-1

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12552-011-9047-1

Keywords

  • Depressive symptoms
  • Adolescents
  • Gender
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Race/ethnicity