Age related sex differences in maladaptive regulatory responses to sadness: A study of youths at high and low familial risk for depression

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J Affect Disord. 2021 Jul 21;294:574-579. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2021.07.086. Online ahead of print.


Offspring of parents with depression histories are at increased risk of developing depression and also report maladaptive ways of self-regulating sadness. Maladaptive regulation of sadness tends to be more prevalent among females than males and has been proposed as one explanation of sex differences in depression rates that emerge around mid-adolescence. However, there is scant information about the age at which the sex differences in maladaptive regulatory responses become evident and whether such age-related sex differences vary depending on depression risk. The present study examined two samples aged 8-18 years: 86 offspring of emotionally healthy parents and 98 offspring of parents with depression histories. Subjects were clinically assessed and provided self-reports of maladaptive responses to sadness. In the combined samples, sex differences in maladaptive responses were significant at age 12.5 years and older ages (i.e., chronologically earlier than the documented emergence of sex differences in depression). While in the high-risk group, sex differences in maladaptive regulatory responses were significant at 12.11 years of age and older, in the low-risk group there was no age at which sex differences were significant. Our findings support the possible mechanistic role of maladaptive emotion regulation in the emergence of sex disparities in depression rates and have implications for prevention.

PMID:34330054 | DOI:10.1016/j.jad.2021.07.086