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Adolescent psychopathology: IV. Specificity of psychosocial risk factors for depression and substance abuse in older adolescents.

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Oregon Research Institute, Eugene 97403-1983, USA.



To determine the specificity to major depressive disorder (MDD) of a wide array of psychosocial risk factors in older adolescents (aged 14 through 18 years).


Diagnostic and psychosocial assessments were conducted with 1,507 randomly selected high school students at T1 and after approximately 1 year (T2). Three diagnostic groups were compared: those who had an episode of MDD during that year (n = 90), those who had an episode of substance use disorder during that year (SUD) (n = 42), and a control group with no disorder (n = 1,189).


Risk factors specific to MDD were stress (minor and major events), emotional reliance, physical symptoms and disease, history of suicide attempt, and a past episode of depression or anxiety disorder. Risk factors specific to SUD were tobacco use, academic difficulties, and a past episode of SUD. Risk factors that were shared were current depression symptoms, internalizing and externalizing behavior problems, coping skills, interpersonal conflict with parents, and dissatisfaction with grades.


By determining the number of risk factors for MDD, for SUD, or those that are general to both disorders, clinicians can make informed predictions concerning the probable future onset of a full-fledged episode of MDD and/or SUD in individual cases. The results of this study allow for the identification of adolescents who are at elevated risk for MDD and SUD. The results also have implications for the design of interventions aimed at preventing the occurrence of these disorders. Such interventions should target change on risk factors of the type identified in this study.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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