February 20, 2009

Anti-social behavior predicts depression

Anti-social behavior among girls and anxiety among both sexes predicted depression in early adolescence, U.S. researchers found.

University of Washington social scientists tracked first- and second-graders for seven years and found that surprisingly, early signs of depression were not predictive of adolescent depression.

Anti-social behavior has typically been viewed as a big problem among boys, so it tends to be ignored among girls. Boys with early anti-social behavior typically go on to show more anti-social behavior while girls may turn inward with symptoms, morphing into other mental health problems such as depression eating disorders, anxiety and suicidal behavior during adolescence, lead author James Mazza said in a statement.

When all the risk factors were analyzed, anti-social behavior and anxiety were the most predictive of later depression. It just may be that they are more prevalent in the early elementary school years than depression.

More than 800 children participated in the study. Eighty-one percent were white and 54 percent were boys.

The findings are published in the online edition of The Journal of Early Adolescence.