Structure and Stress: Trajectories of Depressive Symptoms across Adolescence and Young Adulthood

Daniel Adkins, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Lin Wang, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

This paper models trajectories of depression across adolescence and young adulthood. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, latent curve models (LCM) examined variation in mean depression trajectories, and the effects of childhood socioeconomic status (SES) and stressful life events (SLE), across racial/ethnic and gender groups. It was found that while all groups exhibit a curvilinear inverted U-shaped trajectory, significant variation among groups exists in both trajectory intercepts and slopes. For all racial/ethnic groups, women exhibited higher depression levels, with larger gender gaps among minorities. Racial disparity was found for both genders, with whites generally exhibiting lower levels than minorities. Childhood SES was primarily influential on the intercept component of the LCM, although there was considerable effect heterogeneity across groups. The effect of SLE generally decreased over time. Overall, the results indicate considerable heterogeneity among racial-gender groups for both normative depression trajectories and covariate effects.

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Presented in Session 40: Adolescent Mental Health in the U.S.