Youth Depression

By Maggie Morgan, Nicole Ureles & Shannon Spurr


The goal for creating this wiki is to provide a better understanding of youth depression in relation to self preception, parental involvement and interventions. The following is a review of a sample of studies that present these topics and examine the current research. These topics are just a small sample of research that could be done on youth depression. Please also further investigate the topic by linking to other helpful websites, videos, and wikis. The overview of this wiki is as follows: general statistics of youth depression, self preception, parental involvement, interventions, short videos, and helpful websites/links.


According to Teen Depression (n.d.), "depression is the most common mental health disorder in the United States among teens and adults, and can have a serious impact on the lives of the many teens who suffer from depression." Youth depression crosses all boundries, it affects youths "regardless of gender, social background, income level, race or school or other achievements" (Teen Depression, n.d., para 5). The website also suggests:

  • 20% of all teens affected
  • 30-35% of teens will have symptoms of depression
  • Two thirds of teens with major depression also suffer from another mental disorder
  • 30% of teens with depression also develop a substance abuse problem
  • Untreated depression can lead to risky sexual behavior, higher rates of pregnancy and STDs. See also: [[[]]

Teen Self Concept

We looked at three studies about how teens with depression understood the path of their depression, things that helped their depression, and the value of strong self-esteem in the causes of their depression.

In a study by Wisdom and Green (2004), they identified a series of steps that teens recognize in the onset of their depression, along with how teens view themselves upon diagnosis. Wisdom and Green stress that the recognition of depression by the teens had an enormous impact on whether or not the teens sought treatment for their depression. The study was conducted by gathering a focus group of teens (ages 14-19), and interviewing them about their depression, along with individual interviews of each participant (p. 1229). The study by Wisdom and Green (2004) illustrated that there are stages to how a teen views their depressive episode and how they adapt once they have been diagnosed with depression. Wisdom and Green use the study to encourage intervention at the many stages and to encourage helping teens to try and understand their depression.

A study by McCarthy, Downes, and Sherman (2008), presents an overview of information garnered from interviews with depressed teens to develop deeper understanding of what the teens experience. McCarthy, Downes, and Sherman (pp.57-60) found five themes:
• talking was helpful
• the teens preferred therapy over medication
• teens wanted their parents involved
• support of friends was a non-factor
• teens felt empowered to battle the depression
The authors use this study to give a snapshot of how teens felt and perceived their depression diagnosis (McCarthy, Downes, & Sherman).

Burwell and Shirk (2006) performed a study that looked at what parts of a teen's life contributed to depression. They used multiple testing measures to have teens rate what items affected their depression (Burwell & Shirk). The study found that teens who spent time analyzing their success either socially or academically, were prone to feeling unsuccessful in those two areas if they received negative feedback about themselves (Burwell & Shirk).

Parental Involvement

In this section, three studies and one article involving parental factors will be discussed. Parental factors of current research are: parental perception of relationship with a depressed youth, patterns of depressed adults and youths and familial risk of depression.

The study by Yu et al. shows that there is an “inverse relationship between perceived parental monitoring/parent-child communication and adolescent risk involvements” and that it has “been repeatedly documented across geographic and cultural niches” (2006, pg 1298). As a depressed youth, having open lines of communication with parents can be important in preventing engagement in risky behaviors, such as risky sexual encounters, substance abuse or violent behaviors. The study also shows that youth who are depressed are more likely to have a negative view on the relationship or communication lines with their parents (Yu et al., 2006). When discussing interventions and treatment, the research shows that parental involvement can be significant for success. The research also shows that topics such as parental monitoring and lines of communication need to be discussed in treatment and/or intervention.

In the second study, which all the researchers are in the medical field, Bailey et al. state that "Depressive symptoms… have been linked to problems in adolescence and adulthood including recurrent problems with depression, school problems, and risky health behaviors such as smoking and drinking, drug use, increased sexual activing and suicidal behaviors" (2007, 86). These researchers found the differences in the onset of youth depression in the sexes involves the 'expression of depressive symptoms between school-aged girls and boys" (2007, pg 92). Bailey et al., also state that screening for symptoms of depression should be a crucial part of any health or physical examination for school age children. They also state that past biological factors or social factors should not be considered when examining youths for symptoms. The final thoughts of this study state that "prevention and intervention programs that teach cognitive techniques should be examined for efficacy in decreasing depression” (2007, pg. 92).

In the third study performed by Sander & McCarty, other parent factors for depression are discussed. “Family psychiatric history and parental depression, primarily maternal depression has been associated with a child’s risk for developing depression” (2005, pg. 204). An interesting fact from that same study shows that the effects of depression can span up to three generations of family members (2005, pg 204). It has been shown that daughters are at a higher risk of developing depressive symptoms, yet both genders can be developmentally affected by have a depressed mother. According to Sander & McCarty, the following four factors are attributed to the relationship between depression in mothers and child. “(1) genetics, (2) neuroregulation difficulties that impact affect regulation, (3) exposure to negative maternal affect and behaviors, and (4) stress and the environmental context within which the youth lives (2005, pg 204). This study also looks at other factors of depression that can be linked or related to the parents. They are:
• Parent warmth
• Parental pathology
• Family climate
Researchers in this study found that parents have a biologic connection to depression in their children, but also a social connection to passing on depression in youths. Having a poor relationship with a child, blame/guilt which is passed on to child and how the parents view the world, can all have an effect on a youth becoming depressed (2005, pg 206). Certain parental practices can lead to youths being at higher risk of developing depressive symptoms. Sanders and McCarty concluded their study by stating that “that there are several parent and family risk factors associated with youth depression. They are broad in scope, including parental cognitions, parent pathology, parenting behaviors or warmth and emotional availability, individual coping with the family environment, and family conflict" (2005, pg 208).

Hammen, Brennan & Keenan-Miller state in their article that “one factor that has been repeatedly shown to predict recurrence in adolescence or young adulthood is parental depression (2008). The researchers state that having depressed parents can lead to an earlier onset of depression in youths. “Offspring of depressed parents tend(ed) to develop depression younger (Age 16) compared to offspring of nondepressed parents (age 19) (2008). This study looked at the patterns and similarities of youth developing depressive symptoms up until the age of twenty. The study examined three variables in their patients; gender, maternal depression, and interpersonal functioning. This study by Hammen, Brennan & Keenan-Miller also examines the factor of gender with youth depression. The researchers state that having maternal depression as a factor can show up in both sexes, but that age and interpersonal difficulties differ between the two sexes.

The common theme found in examining parental factors with youth depression shows that the age that the youth develops depressive symptoms and the biological and social factors can differ with the gender of the youth and also how they adjust in receiving treatment and interventions.


In this last section we looked at two studies and two other articles that focus on techniques for teachers, school counselors, and parents to use when dealing with a child that is depressed.

The first study conducted by Beardslee and others (2003) was a “preventative intervention program” for healthy children between the ages of 8-15 who have parents that face depression. Families were encouraged to discuss and have open communication about depression. Parents were to attend meetings where they could really begin to understand signs and symptoms of early depression and mood disorder. Also in the meeting, according to the study, parents were taught how to “encourage children to pursue interests, relationships, and activities outside the home” (p. 122). The study found the program was successful; by parents having a better perception of their own illness their attitudes and awareness of their children’s behavior and techniques on how to help their children improved.

The second study looked at coping mechanisms for adolescent females with depression. The study, conducted by Hazler and Mellin (2004), emphasizes the importance for teachers to understand the difference between depression and every day developmental struggles. According to the study, it is beneficial when counselors really get to know their (female) students and their relationship among peers. For teachers, female students have responded positively to journal writing, as well as awareness to relaxation and managing skills. Students, according to the study, have also found doing role plays and getting involved in social groups led be teachers and counselors as a positive outlet for their depression. The study concludes with the idea that more research needs to be done to better inform teachers and counselors on specific interventions for female adolescent depression.

The first article, written by Auger (2005), has a list of fourteen guidelines and strategies for “school-based” interventions. Examples of the guidelines are as followed:
•Collaborate with Parents, School Staff, Physicians, and Mental Heal Practitioners
•Expand Awareness of Feelings
•Challenge Pessimistic and Constricted Thinking
•Create a Network of Support
•Build Social Skills
•Increase Engagement in Pleasant Events
•Provide Education About Depression
•Set Realistic Expectations for Yourself
The article summarizes with the idea that the guidelines and strategies are simply suggestions and it is crucial to understand that every case of depression is unique.

The final article was written by two physicians, Bhata and Bhata (2007). As for depression interventions, the doctors discuss different treatment options and the risk of antidepressants. Teachers are encouraged to keep educated on “health coping skills, problem solving, conflict resolution, social and assertiveness skills, and relaxation techniques” (p. 78). Parents, according to the article, need to be realistic about their expectations as well as nonjudgmental and supportive toward their children. The article summarizes that early intervention for childhood depression is essential for it can have lasting results into adulthood.


Based on the research of our studies we feel that authentic democratic morals are best served when the teacher acts as a researcher and practitioner. A teacher has to educate themselves on every topic that could affect the student and thier ability to learn. In terms of youth depression, a teacher must be aware of symptoms and causes while understanding that not all cases of youth depression will be similar. Serving as a practitioner, a teacher must be proactive, willing to take risks to empower all students and realize that collaboration with other professionals is necessary.


Auger, R. (2005). School-based interventions for students with depressive disorder. Professional School Counseling, 8(4), 344-352.

Bahatia, S. M.D., & Bhatia, S. M.D. (2007). Childhood and adolescent depression. American Family Physician, 75(1), 73-80.

Bailey, M.K., Zauszniewski, J.A., Heinzer, M.M. & Hemstrom-Krainess, M. (2007). Patterns of depressive symptoms in children. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing. 20,2. 86-95.
Bailey et al. examine the current research regarding gender differences and patterns with adolescent depression. The study does go beyond gender differences to look at overall patterns with depression. The authors state that “screening for depressive symptoms is an important part of the health assessment, especially for children ages 10-12 years, who may face the challenge of depression at a time of major developmental change” (pg. 92). The authors also discuss the importance of awareness of youth depression for the many people who come into contact with them.

Beardsless, W., Cooper, A., Gladstone, T., & Wright, E. (2003). A family-based approach to the prevention of depressive symptoms in children at risk: Evidence of parental and child change. Pediatrics, 112(2), 119-131

Burwell, R. A., & Shirk, S. R. (2006). Self processes in adolescent depression: The role of self-worth contingencies. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 16(3), 479-90.

Hammen, C., Brennan, P.A, & Keenan-Miller, D. (May 13, 2008). Patterns of adolescent depression to age 20: the role of maternal depression and youth interpersonal dysfunction. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. doi: 10:1007/s10802-008-9241-9
This study looks at four groups of adolescents who are depressed and examines common patterns in group. Hammen et al. grouped the participants in the following grouping; early onset-recurrent, early onset desisting, later onset and never depressed. The participants were studied at the ages of fifteen and again at twenty years of age. The study interviewed the participants at different stages and examined how parental depression and other factors correlated with depression status. This study also looked at different practices for treatment.

Hazler, R., & Mellin, E. (2004). The developmental origins and treatment needs of female adolescents with depression. Journal of Counseling & Development, 82(1), 18-24

McCarthy, J., Downes, E. J., & Sherman, C. A. (2008). Looking back at adolescent depression: A qualitative study. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 30 (1), 49-66.
Reflective interviews of teens that were diagnosed with depression, asking what things helped them the most during their depression.

Sander, J.B. & McCarty, C.A., (2005). Youth depression in the family context: familial risk factors and models of treatment. Clinical Chlid and Family Psychology Review. 8,(3), 203-219.

This article examines the current research and factors associated with parental involvement and the idea that parental involvement is necessary in the successful treatment of youth depression. The current report is that although many believe the parental involvement is necessary in treatment, the actual success rates are questionable. This article also looks at parental and family risk factors for depression in youths. Sander and McCarty find that "This kind of multidimensional approach to studying parent-child factors in depression including measure of parental psychopathology and family climate simultaneously has now become standard practice" (p.204). Maternal and paternal interactions and factors, warmth in child-parent relationship and parental depression status are examined. The overall findings state that both parents are important when examining risk factors and all possible options for youth battling depression.

Vazsonyi, A. T., & Bellison, L. M. (2004). The cultural and developmental significance of parenting processes in adolescent anxiety and depression symptoms. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 35 (4), 491-505.
Study of parenting processes and how they measure across cultures. The authors examine whether parenting processes (closeness, support, monitoring, communication, conflict, and peer approval) affect depression and anxiety across cultural contexts.

Wisdom, J. P., & Green, C. A. (2004). "Being in a funk": Teen's efforts to understand their depressive experiences. Qualitative Health Research 2004; 14, 1227-1238. Retrieved from
Survey of teens to ask them to trace their depression in terms of onset. The path is usually slow distress, "being in a funk", thinking about being depressed. The article also discusses how teens veiw themselves once they have a diagnosis of depression.

Yu, S. Clemens, R., Yang, H., Li, X. & Stanton, B. (2006). Youth and parental perceptions of parental monitoring and parent-adolescent communication, youth depression and youth risk behaviors. Social Behavior and Personality. 34 (10). 1297-1310.
This article looks at a study that was done in the Bahamas examining the correlation of depressed youth and the lines of communication with parents. This study also linked potential risk behaviors, examples being alcohol, unprotected sexual behaviors, violence, and the perceived relationship with parents in these adolescents. The authors state that “depressed youth are less likely to describe their communication with their parents as open or positive” (pg 1307). Yu et al. also interviewed the parents of depressed and non-depressed youths to examine their ideas and thoughts on the correlation.

Interesting Videos with Facts

Helpful Websites/Links
"Teen Depression is presented for troubled teens or parents of teens. We offer information on teenage depression, issues, and other teen problems. Our articles were written to educate parents and teens about adolescent depression, the warning signs, and various treatment options available."
"Some people say that depression feels like a black curtain of despair coming down over their lives. Many people feel like they have no energy and can't concentrate. Others feel irritable all the time for no apparent reason. The symptoms vary from person to person, but if you feel "down" for more than two weeks, and these feelings are interfering with your daily life, you may be clinically depressed."
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, a 501(c)(3) organization, has been at the forefront of a wide range of suicide prevention initiatives in 2007 — each designed to reduce loss of life from suicide. We are investing in groundbreaking research, new educational campaigns, innovative demonstration programs and critical policy work. And we are expanding our assistance to people whose lives have been affected by suicide, reaching out to offer support and offering opportunities to become involved in prevention.
This website is geared for adolescents and teenagers. Teenagers can use this resource to get a better understanding of what depression may look and feel like. The site also provides helpful links to available resources to not only depression but also other mental illnesses.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License