Parental warmth during young adulthood decreases rates of depression in children

On Penn State’s website, Mary Campbell has this story on research from the university’s researchers demonstrating less decreased rates of depression among young adults whose parents remain a warm and active presence in their lives: 

“UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Parents with young adult children can still make an impact on their children’s mental health, whether those children have left the nest or not. Researchers from the Penn State College of Health and Human Development found that experiences of parental warmth during young adulthood — from 19 to 26 years of age — led to decreased rates of depression. . . . 

While early experiences with parental warmth matter later in life because they set the stage for parent and child relationships, maintaining parental warmth can help combat young adult depression well into adulthood, according to results published in Development and Psychopathology.  

To examine how parents of older children can affect depression, the Penn State research team used data from the Promoting School-Community-University Partnerships to Enhance Resilience (PROSPER) trial, an evidence-based program designed by Penn State and the University of Iowa to provide substance use interventions in 28 school districts in rural and semi-rural areas of Pennsylvania and Iowa.

The program gathered data using surveys of middle and high school students from 6th through 12th grades. After high school, 1,988 of these youth were surveyed three more times at ages 19, 23 and 25, to gather data about young adulthood.

According to lead author Shichen Fang, former postdoctoral researcher at Penn State and current postdoctoral researcher at Concordia University, the findings from the study are robust.

‘Parental warmth is always associated with lower levels of young adult depression,’ Fang said. ‘And it doesn’t matter whether those young adult children have left home or not. Whether living at home or communicating with parents via phone or text, parental warmth always matters.’

The researchers used multiple waves of data to look at differences in how parental warmth and young adult depression correlate over time. They considered differences between mothers and fathers and differences in the child’s gender, but the data consistently told the same story: warmth matters.”

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