High stress level in family: major CAUSE of teenage depression.

 High stress level in family: major CAUSE of teenage depression.

Structural inequality, family stress put African American youth in danger for elevated depressive symptoms.

high stress level in family major cause of teen depression ichhori.com

Growing up can be way too hard.

But for African American adolescents living under the poverty level, it is even harder. Faced with challenges like housing insecurity, food and community crime, these disadvantages can affect almost every aspect of their development.

A new study from the University of Georgia suggests that the strain from economic hardship can also harm youths’ mental state. But learning more about the problems that perpetuate poverty and poor psychological state could help policymakers break the cycle.

“Rural African American families, especially, deal with a social context where poverty and related challenges are extensive, a product of the continued effects of institutional racism and therefore the historical legacy of slavery during this region,” said Ava Reck, lead author of the research and a doctoral student in Human Development and Family Science and therefore the Center for Family Research. “It is critical to research youth development in challenging social contexts so that we will understand how best to support vulnerable children .”

Depressive symptoms common

Published within the Journal of Adolescent Health, Reck’s study followed 472 African American families over 4 years, starting when the kids were eleven years old. Visiting the families in their homes once annually, the research team asked participants to finish detailed surveys on their lives, asking about everything from their stress and personal struggles to their mental health.

Rates of depressive symptoms within the study were alarming. More than half the youth and forty-five per cent of caregivers within the study had elevated depressive symptoms, including feelings of hopelessness, sadness and loss of interest in usual activities.

"For even the foremost dedicated and caring caregivers, high levels of stress can make parenting children in general—and parenting adolescents, in particular—so difficult. Our question now's how can we develop programs and policies to mitigate these challenges.” — Ava Reck, lead author

Reck found that socioeconomic and other family stressors undermined how relations got alongside one another. In particular, family stress was linked to increases in arguing and unresolved conflict between parents and children. This led to teenagers reporting greater difficulties in regulating their emotions and behaviour, a precursor to depression.

“For even the foremost dedicated and caring caregivers, high levels of stress can make parenting children in general and parenting adolescents, in particular so difficult,” Reck said. “Our question now's how can we develop programs and policies to mitigate these challenges of disproportionate exposure to family stress and continue moving study research forward that addresses how stress impacts family functioning and youth well-being.”

Family-centred interventions

Family-centred programs are a start. And UGA research is leading the way.

The Strong African American Families Teen (SAAF-T) program was developed over a decade ago by UGA professors Gene Brody and Steve Kogan at the centre for Family Research. Groups of families meet weekly for two hours sessions over the course of five weeks. The curriculum focuses on enhancing family relationships while preventing risky behaviour. SAAF-T was shown to scale back depression among youth, conduct problems and substance use issues by quite 30 per cent.

“In addition to family programs, we would wish to be serious about addressing the underlying pervasive inequalities that have dominated United States of America history,” Reck said. “Then we would like to deal with the processes during which poverty-related stress is impacting young people’s lives. We can do this through interventions and policies that employ to scale back racial inequalities, reduce family stress, improve parent-teenage relationships and help teenagers regulate their emotions. We also need culturally competent psychological state look after Black adolescents.”

As for what we will neutralize in the meantime, parents and caregivers can practice involved, vigilant parenting by giving their adolescents limits and expectations, with tons of heat and open communication.

“Adolescence can be a challenging time,” Reck said. “Conflict can be hard to avoid. But the conflict could be amplified due to other stressors. We need to seek out ways to draw the road between how we experience stress and our feelings and behaviours in relationships. Many effective families specialise in being together as a team to require on external stressors.”

This study was co-authored by Steven Kogan, the Georgia Athletic Association Professor of Human Development within the school of Family and Consumer Sciences, and was sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.



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