Children who’ve experienced traumas are more likely to have depression-like symptoms; however, having positive feelings of connection to parents and schools seems to provide protective psychological benefits, according to a study in the Journal of Early Adolescence. The more serious the traumas, though, the less likely that those protective factors had impacts.
Researchers from Oklahoma State University conducted surveys of 1,615 seventh-grade students in an urban area in the South Central United States. They found that 87.5% of the students reported experiencing at least one early life trauma, with students averaging nearly three. “Of those reporting a traumatic experience,” the researchers wrote, “40% reported being separated from a primary caregiver; 37% reported having been the victim of previous physical assault; 25% had been threatened with serious physical harm; 19% had been present when someone was mugged; 38% had witnessed a family member being shot, stabbed, or violently abused; 61% reported having seen or heard interpersonal violence in their school or neighborhood; and 61% had witnessed a family member being arrested.”
The researchers then found that adolescents with trauma exposures were at risk for higher depressive symptoms when they had lower levels of parent connectedness. However, with more serious traumas, they wrote, the “protective factors are overwhelmed.”
“Findings suggest that early life trauma is common among young urban adolescents, and cumulative exposure is associated with greater levels of depressive symptoms,” wrote the researchers. “Greater parent and school connectedness are associated with lower depressive symptoms for early adolescents. However, the protective effect of parent connectedness is diminished at high levels of trauma exposure.”
Interpersonal Trauma and Depressive Symptoms in Early Adolescents
Exploring the Moderating Roles of Parent and School Connectedness ( Schwerdtfeger Gallus, Kami L. et al. The Journal of Early Adolescence. Published online before print August 27, 2014, doi: 10.1177/0272431614548067)