Affective family interactions and their associations with adolescent depression: A dynamic network approach

Dev Psychopathol. 2018 Oct;30(4):1459-1473. doi: 10.1017/S0954579417001699. Epub 2017 Nov 20.


The prevalence of depression rises steeply during adolescence. Family processes have been identified as one of the important factors that contribute to affect (dys)regulation during adolescence. In this study, we explored the affect expressed by mothers, fathers, and adolescents during a problem-solving interaction and investigated whether the patterns of the affective interactions differed between families with depressed adolescents and families with nondepressed adolescents. A network approach was used to depict the frequencies of different affects, concurrent expressions of affect, and the temporal sequencing of affective behaviors among family members. The findings show that families of depressed adolescents express more anger than families of nondepressed adolescents during the interaction. These expressions of anger co-occur and interact across time more often in families with a depressed adolescent than in other families, creating a more self-sustaining network of angry negative affect in depressed families. Moreover, parents' angry and adolescents' dysphoric affect follow each other more often in depressed families. Taken together, these patterns reveal a particular family dynamic that may contribute to vulnerability to, or maintenance of, adolescent depressive disorders. Our findings underline the importance of studying affective family interactions to understand adolescent depression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology
  • Adult
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Family Relations / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parents / psychology*