Differential Exposure and Reactivity to Interpersonal Stress Predict Sex Differences in Adolescent Depression

Published In: Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, v. 35, no. 1, 2006, p. 103-115

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2006

by Josephine H Shih, Nicole K. Eberhart, Constance L Hammen, Patricia A. Brennan

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This study tested the hypothesis that higher rates of depression in adolescent girls are explained by their greater exposure and reactivity to stress in the interpersonal domain in a large sample of 15-year-olds. Findings indicate that adolescent girls experienced higher levels of total and interpersonal episodic stress, whereas boys experienced higher levels of chronic stress (academic and close friendship domains). Higher rates of depression in girls were explained by their greater exposure to total stress, particularly interpersonal episodic stress. Adolescent girls were also more reactive (more likely to become depressed) to both total and interpersonal episodic stress. The findings suggest that girls experience higher levels of episodic stress and are more reactive to these stressors, increasing their likelihood of becoming depressed compared to boys. Results were discussed in terms of girls' greater interpersonal focus and implications for understanding sex differences in depression.

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