Autonomy and relatedness in family interactions with depressed adolescents
Depression is a significant problem among adolescents, especially females. The current study investigated interaction patterns along the dimensions of autonomy and relatedness in families of depressed adolescents. Externalizing adolescents and nonclinic adolescents were included as controls. Family interaction was assessed by observational coding of a mother-adolescents problem-solving task, as well as by mother and adolescent reports of family functioning. Adolescent self-concept was also assessed as a potential mediator in the link between family interaction and adolescent depression. Results suggest that depressed adolescents perceive the quality of their relationships with their parents to be significantly impaired. Mothers of depressed adolescents reported heightened conflict with their depressed adolescents, but not in the general home environment. Observation of depressed adolescents and their mothers during the problem-solving task revealed that although mothers showed normal levels of warmth and involvement, they tended to ignore or cut-off statements made by their adolescents. Several interesting gender differences emerged within the depressed group. During the observation task, depressed girls and their mothers showed higher levels of autonomy and a more positive connection relative to depressed boys and their mothers. Similarly, homes of depressed boys were perceived by mothers as especially low in cohesion and expressiveness and as high in control. It appeared that depressed girls seemed caught between wanting their autonomy and their desire for positive relatedness. Depressed boys appeared to be more resigned and passive in the face of high levels of control in the home. Finally, self-concept was significantly impaired in the depressed adolescents although it did not mediate the relationship between family interaction and adolescent depression.
- Psychology