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Pubertal Timing and Depressive Symptoms in Early Adolescents: The Roles of Romantic Competence and Romantic Experiences

NCJ Number
Journal of Youth and Adolescence Volume: 37 Issue: 8 Dated: September 2008 Pages: 953-966
Catherine B. Stroud; Joanne Davila
Date Published
September 2008
This study examined romantic competence and romantic experiences in cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between pubertal timing and depressive symptoms among 83 early-adolescent girls (89-percent Caucasian).
The study found that for on-time, but not early-maturing or late-maturing girls, lower levels of romantic competence were associated with higher levels of concurrent (not longitudinal) depressive symptoms. This suggests that girls have varying levels of competencies in new domains encountered in adolescence, and these competencies interact with pubertal timing in producing depressive symptoms. The study also showed that for on-time maturing girls, engaging in more romantic experiences was associated with greater depressive symptoms cross-sectionally and increases in depressive symptoms longitudinally. The same was not true for early-maturing and late-maturing girls; however there may have been limited power to detect effects in these groups due to their small size. Otherwise, this suggests that romantic experiences may serve a different function for those physically maturing at different times relative to their peers. Because this study produced novel and unexpected findings, it is important to replicate them in a different sample. At Time 1 (T1), the girls mean age was 13.45. One year later (T2), families were again contacted for the second wave of data collection (88 percent of the original sample participated). Pubertal development was assessed at T1 using the Pubertal Development Scale. The romantic Competence Interview, a semistructured interview, was used to assess overall romantic competence for all girls, regardless of romantic relationship status. The Measure of Adolescent Heterosocial Competence was also used to assess competence in opposite-sex relationships. A self-report measure was used to assess adolescent romantic activities at T1. Depressive symptoms at T1 and T2 were assessed with the Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for school-aged children-present and lifetime version. 4 tables and 53 references