Depressive symptoms in California adolescents: Family structure and parental support

Christi A. Patten, J. Christian Gillin, Arthur J. Farkas, Elizabeth A. Gilpin, Charles C. Berry, John P. Pierce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Purpose: To examine the relationship between family structure, parental social support, and depressive symptoms among California adolescents. Methods: The depressive symptom instrument consisted of a previously validated self-report scale. The sample was the 1993 California Youth Tobacco Survey respondents (N = 5,531). The analysis classified adolescents in the highest 15% on the depressive symptom scale as having notable depressive symptoms and related the prevalence of depression to family structure (two- parent, single-mother, single-father, and neither parent present) and to parental support (adolescents naming parents as someone they could talk to about problems). Results: Girls reported significantly higher rates of depressive symptoms than boys. Although adolescents in single-parent households tended to show slightly higher rates of depressive symptoms, these rates did not differ significantly across the four types of family structures for either sex. Significantly higher rates of depressive symptoms were found among both boys and girls who resided with parent(s) not named as supportive than those who lived with supportive parent(s). Girls appeared particularly vulnerable if they lived in a nonsupportive, single-father household. Conclusion: Lack of perceived parental social support is highly related to depressive symptoms in California adolescents. Helping parents establish and maintain supportive relationships with the children in their household may decrease the likelihood of depressive symptoms among adolescents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-278
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1997


  • Adolescents
  • Depression
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Family structure
  • Family support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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