Teen depression can affect parents’ marital satisfaction, a new Northwestern Medicine study has found. Parents often seek mental health treatment for a child struggling with depression, but the treatment shouldn’t stop with the depressed teen, suggests the study.
The study found that while depressed teens were involved in active treatment, parents’ marriages and parent-child conflict remained stable. Once the teens’ treatment had finished, however, parents’ marital relationships slightly worsened, the study found.
“Families might be putting their own issues on the back burner while their teen gets help,” said first author Ms. Kelsey Howard, a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Once the treatment ends, they’re forced to face issues in their marriage or family that might have been simmering while their depressed teen was being treated.”
To address this, Ms. Howard and her co-authors recommend that parents of teens who are depressed also have a check-in for their marital relationship.
“Families are interactive, fragile ecosystems, and a shift in a teenager’s mood can undoubtedly alter the family’s balance — negatively or positively,” Ms. Howard said.
While adolescent depression is well known to be a stressor for parents and families, this is one of only a few studies to examine how adolescent depression impacts family relationships and, in turn, how family relationships impact adolescent depression.
The study was published June 6 in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.Friday Letter Submission, Publish on June 14