Parenting Style as a Risk Factor for Adolescent Depression

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According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention somewhere between 5-10 percent of adolescents in this country struggle with depression, and around 25 percent experience anxiety as a mental health concern. Some causes behind these conditions are not easily remedied, but a recent review of studies shows that at least one risk factor could be reduced. The review of previously conducted studies, which was produced by the Population Mental Health Group at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, examined 181 prior studies on family relationships and adolescent mental health. The review found that parents who often fight or act as helicopters – hovering and over-involved with their teens’ lives – are most likely to have adolescents who battle either depression or anxiety. Parenting is not the only risk factor a teen has for these conditions. Things like family history of mental illness, socioeconomic status and ethnicity all play a role in determining whether or not a young person will be prone to developing anxiety or depression. Environmental factors beyond a parent’s control such as bullying at school also contribute to the risk. Nevertheless, parents loom large on the emotional landscape for their teens. When parents are harsh, cold, sarcastic and critical, or use shame and rejection to control their children, depression or anxiety in the child becomes more likely. The risk was also higher for adolescents living in homes where mom and dad were often at odds. The authors did say that the review seemed to suggest a stronger link connecting parenting to depression than to anxiety. By contrast, families where the adolescents were active participants in making family decisions and where the parents stayed alert to their whereabouts seemed to have the lowest rates of teen depression. Allowing young people to make decisions, even unwise ones, are important steps in building self-esteem and confidence. Teens need to learn from making mistakes. Over-involved parents send a message that they don’t trust the young person’s ability to do things on their own. A home with boundaries and freedom within the boundaries proved to be healthful for adolescents.

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