When Love Hurts: Depression
and Adolescent Romantic Relationships
Deborah P. Welsh
Catherine M. Grello
Melinda S. Harper
University of Tennessee
The pervasiveness of depression along with the extremely serious psychological, social, and economic consequences it wreaks in our society makes it one of the most pressing mental health concerns of our time (Cicchetti & Toth, 1998). Depression in adolescents is associated with detrimental consequences, including social impairment in family, peer, and romantic relationships, academic problems, suicide, and risk for future depressive episodes (see Compas, Connor, & Hinden, 1998). Adolescence, particularly early to middle adolescence, is considered the pivotal time period during which overall rates of depression rise and gender differences in depressive symptoms emerge (Compas et al., 1998; Leadbeater, Blatt, & Quinlan, 1995; Nolen-Hoeksema & Girgus, 1994). Interestingly, this is also the time during which adolescents typically begin romantic relationships. Although romantic relationships clearly play a normative, healthful role in adolescent development for most adolescents (as described in the majority of chapters in this volume), this chapter focuses on the dark side of adolescent romance. That is, we examine when romantic relationships may be detrimental to adolescent development and may be associated with the rise of depressive symptomatology as well as with the gender difference in depression that emerges during adolescence.
In this chapter we Wrst present the dominant theoretical models explaining the etiology of adolescent depression and current theoretical models of adolescent romantic relationships. We attempt to integrate these perspectives in an effort to explain the link between romantic relationships and depressive symptomatology in adolescents. Our integrative model posits that a variety of individual characteristics may place certain adolescents at risk for developing depressive symptoms when exposed to the stressors inherent in romantic