Etiology and Course of Depressive Symptoms in African American Adolescents

December 1, 2007

Funding: National Institute of Mental Health

Summary: Adolescent depression is a significant public health problem associated with concurrent and later impairment in multiple domains, including interpersonal difficulties, academic and occupational problems, substance use, and suicidal behavior, as well as increased risk of depressive disorders and psychiatric comorbidity. To date, however, there have been few prospective longitudinal examinations of the course of depressive symptoms in adolescence, limiting our understanding of the etiology and course of depressive problems in youth and restricting the knowledge base available to inform the development of preventive interventions and health policies targeting adolescent depression. Moreover, the available research on adolescent depression has been conducted almost exclusively with middle class and Caucasian samples to the relative neglect of ethnically diverse samples.

Additionally, there has been relatively little attention to the role of contexts beyond the family in the emergence and maintenance of depressive symptoms. Therefore, this examines the longitudinal course of depressive symptoms in a community epidemiologically-defined sample of urban African American adolescents, and the role of the neighborhood context in the etiology of depressive symptoms in these adolescents. Multilevel and geostatistical models will be used to understand the effects of location on these adolescents' mental health adjustment, and inform the development of contextually relevant interventions. Implications of this work for public health policies regarding the content, timing, duration, and location of interventions for adolescent depression will be presented.



Dylan Conger

Sharon Lambert