Gender Differences in Adolescent Depressive Symptoms: The Effect of School Context

Amanda Botticello, Rutgers University

The gender difference in depression is a well-documented health disparity in which females are disproportionately affected. This study explores the influence of social stratification and psychosocial resources on the gender gap in depressive symptoms during adolescence using two levels of analysis: individuals and schools. Schools are a particularly salient context to adolescent development in need of investigation. Using two waves from the Add Health study (N=12,470 teens, 128 schools), hierarchical linear modeling is used to assess the random effects of both depressive symptoms and the gender gap across contexts. Analyses yielded significant contextual-level variation in depressive symptoms net of prior symptomatology, individual-level sociodemographic characteristics, and perceived parental support. The gender gap in symptoms also varied across schools after adjusting for the individual-level variables and is associated with school-level socioeconomic disadvantage. These findings highlight the importance of context to mental health and the use of multilevel approaches in understanding health disparities.

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Presented in Session 140: Social Context and Mental Health