Risk and protective factors for depression and substance use in an adolescent child welfare sample

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Children and Youth Services Review, Volume 33, Issue 11, pp. 2127-2137.

Youth living in out-of-home care exhibit risk for impairments in mental health functioning, yet despite adverse maltreatment experiences youth also exhibit resilience.  The current study examines the association of maltreatment and health indicators on the mental health functioning of youth.  Specifically, depressive symptoms and substance use were examined in a sample of 12 to 15 year old males involved with the child welfare system because of family violence in the home.  Results suggest that slightly more than half of the sample was considered to be resilient, meaning they did not report elevated depressive symptoms or the use of drugs or alcohol over the previous year.  Youth with higher quality caregiver relationships experienced fewer depressive symptoms.  Further statistical analyses indicate that females were almost six times more likely to experience depression than males, and that with each yearly increase in age there is a 2.58 times increase in probability of substance use.  Lastly, an increase in extracurricular activities resulted in a decreased chance of experiencing depression or substance use in comparison to experiencing both issues.  Authors suggest that focusing on high quality caregiver relationships and youth participation in extracurricular activities may be used to support youth living in out-of-home care and a reduction in depressive symptoms and substance use.

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