Adolescence can be rough for everybody, but what causes some teens to thrive while others struggle?
While previous reports have credited environmental risk factors, such as poverty and racism, for anxiety and depression in teens, a new study of 335 children adds another one: a fracture in the parent-child bond.
Dr. Tambetta Ojong, a family medicine resident at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit, breaks down the study’s results.
As teen participants of the study moved through adolescence, their attachment to their parents changed significantly, with the largest drop occurring in middle school; the more a teen felt alienated during their adolescence, the less likely they were to trust and communicate with their parents.
Researchers found that higher rates of emotional alienation from parents were linked to more emotional problems. Preteens, specifically, felt over one-and-a-half times as alienated in middle school as they did at an earlier age, and they reported a threefold decrease in trust. As a result, it seems, communication dropped about four times as much.
Dr. Suniya Luthar, co-author of the study, told ABC News that parents can prevent these feelings of distrust from developing. “It would be helpful if, during this time of adolescence, parents would look past all the moodiness, distance and irritability, and express feelings of love and affirmation.”
Parents can protect their teens’ mental health if at least one of them has a strong, supportive relationship with the teen.
But Luthar added that for parents to be there for their children they need to look after themselves first.
During any crisis, they “act as first responders, meaning they do their best to diffuse a stressful situation.”
This puts mothers at risk for their own depression, Luthar warned.