Association of Life Events with Depressive Symptoms among Puerto Rican Youth
Carter-Pokras, Olivia D.
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BACKGROUND: Early onset depressive symptoms have amplifying effects on the course of later depression, and serious personal, social and economic consequences throughout the life course. Little has been published regarding socio-demographic determinants of depression and possible mechanisms for the development of depressive symptoms among Puerto Rican youth. This study aims to examine the extent to which life events are associated with the development of depressive symptoms, and how place of residence, parental support, youth self-esteem and youth coping modify that association. METHODS: Secondary analyses were performed of data from the longitudinal Boricua Youth Study (three annual waves between 2000-2004). The sample consisted of 10-13 year old Puerto Rican youth living in New York and Puerto Rico with no depressive symptoms at wave 1, and complete information on depressive symptoms (DISC Predictive Scale which includes 9 significant predictors of depression)at waves 2 and/or 3. RESULTS: Depressive symptoms increase across waves with an increase in total, negative, or positive life events in general; and social adversity, death, and family environment life events specifically. Youth with low coping consistently had a higher number of depressive symptoms than youth with high coping regardless of number of total, negative or positive life events. Youth support from parents was found to be a significant confounder for all types of life events. Parent coping was a significant confounder for social adversity events. DISCUSSION: This study identifies various kinds of life events as risk factors that contribute to the development of depressive symptoms. Early onset depressive symptoms have amplifying effects on the course of later depression, and serious personal, social and economic consequences throughout the life course. Preventing the development of depressive symptoms at an early age should be a priority if we want to optimize the mental health and well-being of youth so that they can reach their full potential. Our findings could inform the development of a first-stage screening tool for youth at risk of developing depressive symptoms in community settings.