CHICAGO, June 8 (Xinhua) — A study of Northwestern Medicine found that while depressed teens were involved in active treatment, parents’ marriages and parent-child conflict remained stable; once the teens’ treatment had finished, however, parents’ marital relationships slightly worsened.
Analyzing data from 322 clinically depressed youths who participated in the 2007 Treatment for Adolescents with Depression Study, a landmark study on treating adolescent depression, the study found that parents of teens who had higher depressive symptoms at the end of their treatment experienced more marital problems and more parent-child conflict at later study visits.
Conversely, parents whose kids showed fewer depressive symptoms at the end of treatment saw an improvement in later parent-child conflict.
“Families might be putting their own issues on the back burner while their teen gets help,” said first author Kelsey Howard, a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Once the treatment ends, they’re forced to face issues in their marriage or family that might have been simmering while their depressed teen was being treated.”
To address this, the researchers recommend that parents of teens who are depressed also have a check-in for their marital relationship.
“Families are interactive, fragile ecosystems, and a shift in a teenager’s mood can undoubtedly alter the family’s balance, negatively or positively,” Howard said.
While adolescent depression is well-known to be a stressor for parents and families, this is one of only a few studies to examine how adolescent depression impacts family relationships and, in turn, how family relationships impact adolescent depression.
The study was published on Thursday in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.
Northwestern Medicine is the collaboration between Northwestern Memorial Healthcare and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, which includes research, teaching and patient care.