Exploring the Relations between Parent Depressive Symptoms, Family Religious Involvement, and Adolescent Depressive Symptoms: A Test of Moderation

By Hooper, Lisa M.; Newman, Caroline R. | Counseling and Values, April 2011 | Go to article overview

Exploring the Relations between Parent Depressive Symptoms, Family Religious Involvement, and Adolescent Depressive Symptoms: A Test of Moderation


Hooper, Lisa M., Newman, Caroline R., Counseling and Values


Building on previous research, the current study examined the relations between parent depressive symptoms, family religious involvement, and adolescent depressive symptoms in a convenience sample of 74 parent-adolescent dyads of southern U.S. families. We used hierarchical regression analysis to explore whether family religious involvement moderated the relations between parent depressive symptoms and adolescent depressive symptoms. Results indicated that family religious involvement did not have a significant moderating effect for adolescent and parent depression. Implications for counseling practice and directions for future research are discussed.

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The relationships between religion, spirituality, and health have been a growing area of investigation among researchers in recent decades (Powers, 2005). Despite some controversy on whether and how to infuse religion and spirituality into the human helping process (Dein, 2007; Sarason, 1993; Weaver & Koenig, 2006; Windham, Hooper, & Hudson, 2005; Young, Wiggins-Frame, & Cashwell, 2007), many researchers and helping professionals (counselors, psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, and nurses) believe that religion and spirituality, two complex aspects of human life, can significantly and positively relate to an individual's physical, emotional, or psychological health (Chatters, 2000; Greenfield & Marks, 2007; Hoogestraat & Trammel, 2003; Jankowski & Vaughn, 2009; Payne, 2009). In particular, the link between mental health and religion has been established (Dein, 2007; H. G. Koenig, McCullogh, & Larson, 2001; L. B. Koenig & Valliant, 2009); religion is associated with an individual's mental health, especially as it relates to stress, social support, overall adjustment, and a sense of fulfillment or meaning in life.

Religion is a commonly used resource for people dealing with presenting problems in their lives (Chatters, 2000). Thus, most religions provide a framework (e.g., prayer, frequency of attendance at formal service, or other group rituals) in which to handle stressful life situations. It has been found that individuals who actively use religious coping resources have more positive mental health outcomes, including lower levels of stress and anxiety and higher levels of psychological functioning, than do people who do not use religious coping resources (Chatters, 2000; Smith, McCullough, & Poll, 2003; Young, Cashwell, & Scherbakova, 2000). Research exploring the buffering effects of religion on health has grown over the past few decades, particularly investigations on the link between religion and depression (Le, Tov, & Taylor, 2007; Smith et al., 2003). This accumulated body of research is critical given that major depression is one of the most prevalent mental health disorders discussed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., text rev.; DSM-IV-TR; American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2000) and is quickly escalating worldwide (Kessler et al., 2003; Smith et al., 2003).

Research on the benefits and effects of religion related to depression has tended to focus myopically on the individual level (Morrison & Thornton, 1999) while failing to address the family system level (i.e., effects on parents and adolescent family members). Thus, the theoretical framework that undergirds the current study is family systems theory. More specifically, the current study used a family systems framework to examine parental mental health factors and other family systems factors (i.e., family religious involvement and family conflict) related to adolescent mental health outcomes (i.e., depressive symptoms).

The purpose of this study, then, is to consider how religion may correlate with parent and adolescent depressive symptoms and moderate the relation between parent and adolescent depressive symptoms. Specifically, we tested three hypotheses regarding the benefits of religion in reducing depressive symptom scores in family members (see Figure I for a graphic presentation of the hypotheses tested in the current study):

Hypothesis 1: There will be a linear relation between parent depressive symptoms and adolescent depressive symptoms. …

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