Objective: To examine the relationship between stressful life events and major depressive disorder (MDD) in adolescents.
Method: Adolescents (aged 12 to 18 years) with a current episode of MDD based on Research Diagnostic Criteria (n = 39) and normal controls free of any Axis I lifetime psychiatric disorder (n = 35) were assessed using the Life Events Record.
Results: MDD and normal control adolescents had similar rates of total stressful life events in the year before being interviewed. Stressful life events were dichotomized into those that were most likely either independent of or dependent on the adolescent's influence/behavior. Depressed adolescents had significantly more dependent stressful life events during the previous year than did the normal controls. Further analyses showed that depressed adolescents with dependent stressful life events scored lower on symptom clusters and accordingly were less severely depressed than depressed adolescents without dependent life events.
Conclusions: The results of this study indicate that depressed adolescents have an increased risk for experiencing dependent life events. Furthermore, these data suggest that dependent life events in depressed adolescents are differentially associated with the type and severity of symptom presentation. The temporal occurrence, severity, and type of stressful life events as they relate to the onset, phenotypic expression, and maintenance of depression in adolescents need to be more fully understood.