Teen girls making the transition from adolescence to adulthood have a high risk of depression — some studies estimate that up to 21% of 15-year-old girls and 10% of 24-year-old women experience symptoms such as persistent sadness, sleeping problems, and irritability. Depression may increase a girl's risk of being abused by a boyfriend or spouse, say researchers from the University of California in San Francisco and Harvard University and Children's Hospital, both in Boston.
Between 1995 and 2002, 1,659 girls who attended 80 U.S. high schools and 52 middle schools answered questions about their physical and emotional health, relationships with friends and family members, and their experience with depression, physical and sexual abuse, and dating violence. The girls answered interview questions three times, from 7th through 12th grade. At the third interview, in 2001-2002, all of the young women included the study were in relationships with a partner or spouse.
At the start of the study, about 10% of the girls experienced symptoms of depression. By 2002, 28% of the women who had reported depression symptoms in 1995 said they'd experienced dating violence or injury from a partner, compared with only 18% of women who didn't report depression. Overall, girls with a greater number of initial symptoms of depression had nearly twice the risk of later experiencing relationship abuse. In addition, the more severe a girl's symptoms of depression, the more likely she was to experience relationship abuse. Girls who suffered childhood abuse and dating violence or rape at an early age also had a higher risk of being abused by their partners later in life.
What This Means to You. The researchers of this study suggest that when girls experience depression during the teen years, it may significantly affect their maturity and ability to make healthy decisions, which may later affect the quality of their adult relationships.
What can you do? If your daughter has been abused, she may need help from a mental health professional to cope with the ensuing emotional issues. In addition, if you notice she develops symptoms of depression, such as sadness, loneliness, low self-esteem, or changes in eating or sleeping patterns, talk to your child's doctor. You can also seek help from the National Domestic Abuse Hotline by calling (800) 799-SAFE (7233).
Source: Jocelyn A. Lehrer, ScD; Stephen Buka, ScD; Steven Gortmaker, PhD; Lydia A. Shrier, MD, MPH; Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, March 2006.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2006