Do Depression and Inhibitory Control Increase Vulnerability for Family Dysfunction During Adolescence?
thesisposted on 2020-08-01, 00:00 authored by Ashley Renee Isaia
Adolescence is a period of increased risk for depression. Adolescents experience delayed development of brain regions supporting executive functions (e.g., emotional and behavioral control) and concurrent changes in family dynamics due to increased autonomy and time with peers. Collectively, these changes may increase parent-adolescent conflict and impair family communication, which in turn may exacerbate and maintain depressive illness. Despite evidence that adolescent depression is associated with deficits in family problem solving and communication, literature in this area is methodologically limited. Moreover, it is unclear whether executive function deficits (e.g., inhibitory control) translate to functional impairments in family interactions, such as difficulties communicating and resolving conflicts. To date, no studies have empirically tested interrelationships between mood, executive functioning, and family functioning. We seek to answer the following research question in a sample of 36 adolescents with a broad range of mood severity: Do depression and inhibitory control increase vulnerability for family dysfunction during adolescence? We capitalize on multi-informant (adolescent, parent, observer) and multi-method (objective, subjective, and observational) assessments and a longitudinal design to examine associations between adolescent depression, inhibitory control, and family problem solving and communication in a demographically diverse sample. Results indicate that adolescent depression was associated with deficits in family problem solving and communication and impairments in inhibitory control were associated with deficits in family communication among a racially and ethnically diverse sample of youth and their parents. Further, findings highlight the value of multi-informant and multi-method assessments in gaining a more comprehensive understanding of family dynamics. Finally, we found evidence for racial differences in perceptions and observations of family communication. Our results emphasize the importance of early detection and intervention efforts to address adolescent affective and cognitive processes that may contribute to the maintenance of depression. Results also underscore the importance of incorporating family members into evidence-based treatments for adolescent depression to enhance family problem solving and communication.