Adolescent School Failure Predicts Later Depression Among Girls

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University of Washington, Social Development Research Group

Adolescent girls who experience serious school failures such as expulsion, suspension or dropping out are significantly more likely to suffer from depression at the age of 21 than girls who have not had such problems, University of Washington researchers found. Forty-four percent of girls who were expelled were found to be depressed by age 21, compared with 20 percent of girls who were not expelled. The ratios were also high for girls who dropped out (33 percent versus 19 percent) and girls who were suspended (28 percent versus 19 percent).

Researchers failed to find any link for boys between academic, behavioral or social problems and depression. They conclude that school failure may stigmatize girls more strongly, or is harder for girls to overcome. Data for the study come from the ongoing Seattle Social Development Research Project, which has been tracking 808 youth from 18 high-crime Seattle schools since 1985, when the participants were in the fifth grade. Funding for this research came in part from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The study appears in the August issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health. Abstract free, (888) 437-4636, (search for title).