Adolescent Low Mood and Family Processes

According to Nick Allen (Orygen Youth Health Research Centre, University of Melbourne), family interactions predict depression more strongly, than do peer interactions.  The more that family members have positive interactions with each other, the more likely it is that the adolescent will be protected from depression.

This is great news because it suggests that no matter what storm is happening to your teen outside the home (e.g., bullying, relationship break up, exam stress), when families pull together and create a great family bubble (where their teen enjoys being at home), the teen is less likely to experience depression or more quick to recover.

Adolescents can be protected from depression to a large extent by:

►Feeling supported

►Feeling approved of

►Feeling closely attached to family members

►Experiencing lots of positive emotional expression within the family

►Experiencing low levels of negative emotional expression with the family (arguments, aggression, put-downs)

►Having permission to talk about the negative emotional experiences (Go ahead, tell us how it is for you)

To help adolescents maintain a health mood during this phase, parents can:

►Seek a balance between fun and achievements

►Support the adolescent particularly during relationship breakdowns

►Help the adolescent get good sleep

►Help the adolescent to maintain a good level of physical activity

►Get to know their friends

►Say lots of positive things about their child

Limit expression of angry, aggressive communication

Break cycle of escalating conflict

Avoid buying into the depression by allowing the teen to ‘buy out’ of family life (e.g. even though you might feel low I’d still love you to help me with the dishes)

►Be supportive and consistent – respond positively to their negative expression of mood

►Be honest and direct about different issues

►Promote family time