Examination of Adolescents' Negative Thoughts, Depressive Mood, and Family Environment

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The focus of this study was the relationship among adolescents' negative thoughts, depressive mood, and family environment. Three hundred eleven students (aged 16 and 17 years) in public and private schools served as subjects. They were administered the Family Environment Scale, the Automatic Thoughts Questionnaire, and the Beck Depression Inventory. Family cohesion was found to be related to the degree of negative thoughts and depressive mood of the adolescents, but perceived control within the family was not.

The family is an extremely important environmental influence on personality development. Specifically, theorists have focused on the influence of parents on the personality characteristics of children. Relationships between child behavior and child-rearing practices, as well as parental attitudes, have been examined (Sears et al., 1957; Peterson et al., 1959). The important role of family functioning in regard to child abuse and child deviancy has also been investigated (Bryant & Wells, 1973; Anjel & Erkman, 1993).

In the family social system, each family member influences, and is influenced by, the other members (Monane, 1967), producing a family environment, or climate (Moos, 1975). Family climate is determined by the interpersonal relationships among family members, the emphasis on personal growth, and system maintenance--the organizational basis of the family (Moos, 1974, 1984). Two important dimensions of the family environment are cohesion and control (Moos, 1974; Fowler, 1980).

Healthy families are characterized by optimal cohesion; that is, family members display warm affective ties (Olson et al., 1979). Control is the dominant feature of an unhealthy or negative family environment (Moos, 1974). The system is rigid--there is resistance to change (Minuchin, 1974).

As a form of social support, the family is an important resource in coping with stress. Individuals who remain relatively healthy under stressful situations have been found to perceive high family cohesion (Hollahan & Moos, 1982). Individuals who perceive less family support have been found to experience more depression and work-related stress (Mitchell et al., 1983).

Family environment is considered a major factor in adolescents' psychological adjustment (Moos, 1984; Lofgrem & Lapsen, 1992). A supportive, cohesive family environment fosters psychological well-being. Children experiencing high control but low cohesion have been found to be more introverted and depressed (Billings & Moos, 1984).

Lack of both affection and emotional support, high control, and a strong push for achievement by parents during childhood are related to depression (Santrock, 1990). Acquisition of self-devaluated schema during the early years may also lead to a lack of confidence in future endeavors (Beck, 1973; Clark & Beck, 1989). Further, habitual negative thoughts are problematic for the depressive adolescent.

Thus, family climate and relationship styles play a role in adolescents' self-evaluations and psychological health. The aim of the present study was to clarify the relationship between adolescents' negative thoughts, depressive mood, and family environment.

METHOD

Subjects

Three hundred eleven students (133 males and 178 females), aged 16 and 17 years, participated in this investigation. They were drawn from randomly selected public and private schools in three districts of Istanbul, Turkey.

Instruments

Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). The BDI (Beck, 1973) is a self-report Likert-type instrument containing 21 items designed to assess the severity of depressive symptoms. The Turkish version of the BDI has demonstrated good reliability and validity (Tegin, 1987).

Automatic Thoughts Questionnaire (ATQ). The ATQ (Holland & Kendall, 1980) is a 30-item Likert-type inventory designed to assess the frequency of negative self-statements associated with depression. …

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