Sleep and Parent-Family Connectedness: Links, Relationships and Implications for Adolescent Depression

Article excerpt


The present study investigated the relationship between adolescent depression, levels of sleep and family functioning in a nationally representative sample of adolescents. Participants were selected from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) and were split into two separate groups: those who reported getting insufficient amounts of sleep (i.e., 1 to 6 hours/night), and those who reported getting typical amounts of sleep (7 to 10 hours/night). Primary results indicated significant negative relationships between depression and relationships with mother, father and family connectedness. Additionally, for the low-sleep males, a significant negative relationship was found between depression and positive relationship with father, and for low-sleep females, a significant negative relationship was found between depression and a positive relationship with mother and with high levels of family connectedness. Collectively, these results indicate that positive perceptions of parent and family relationships seem to help adolescents avoid depression when they are concurrently experiencing problematic sleep.

Key words: depression; sleep; adolescents; family support


Depression is characterised by a chronic and persistent sadness or loss of enjoyment in normal activities (Baker 1995; Costello et al. 2008; Kendall, Cantwell & Kazdin 1989), and it is typically caused by a complex interplay of genetic, psychological and interpersonal factors. Although the symptoms of depression are problematic at any age, depression in adolescents is particularly troublesome because it can lead to both concurrent and lifelong difficulties. In adolescence, depression has been shown to be concomitant with other psychosocial adjustment problems, including low self-esteem, negative body image and poor academic functioning (Lehtinen et al. 2006; Paxton et al. 2006); depression can be particularly damaging for children and adolescents whose burgeoning growth patterns are still inchoate.

During adolescence, when many teenagers experience increased stress related to the drastic changes occurring in their physical, cognitive, social and emotional growth, some will respond to these changes in troubling ways, including the development of depressive symptomatology. Georgiades et al. (2006) suggested that when compared to younger children, early adolescents experience significantly higher levels of general depressed mood, often caused by rapid developmental changes associated with the onset of early adolescence. Further, Horowitz and Garber (2006) pointed out that depression is thought to affect 1 to 2% of all pre-pubertal children, as compared to anywhere from 3 to 8% of adolescents. Georgiades et al. (2006) concluded that, by middle to late adolescence, levels of major depressive disorder (MDD) often approach those levels found in adult populations. The National Institute of Mental Health (2000) estimated that prevalence rates among adolescents are often as high as 8.3%, with others (e.g., Baker 1995; Kessler & Wakers 1998) suggesting the rate to be even higher at around 10 to 12%. In extreme cases, depression can often lead to suicide with Modroin-McCarthy and Dalton (1996) reporting that suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds.

Because depression is so problematic for adolescents, some researchers have focused on identifying typical risk factors associated with adolescent onset depression (e.g., Reinherz et al. 1999), and other researchers have sought to understand the variables that may buffer adolescents from depression (Mueller 2009). Although risk factors and buffering variables typically associated with depression include a combination of physiological, psychological and environmental factors (Bouma et al. 2008; Costello et al. 2008; MacPhee & Andrews 2006), the current study focuses on how family relationships and average amount of sleep obtained per night may be related to adolescent depression. …