Depression can strike at any time, even among parents. According to data from the 2013 National Health Interview Survey, five percent of parents in two-parent households and 11 percent of single parents experience at least two symptoms of depression.1 Parents of teenagers can be especially prone to depression.
Depression among Parents of Teenagers
The teenage years can be a contentious time for parents, as conflict can result when adolescent children attempt to break free from their parents, establish their own identities, and perhaps rebel against the rules at home. According to work by the U.S. National Research Council and Institute of Medicine Committee on Depression, Parenting Practices, and the Healthy Development of Children, parental conflict with children and parenting difficulties have links to depression.2 The conflict between parents and children during the teenage years can contribute to depression.
Risk Factors for Depression in Parents of Teenagers
Conflict between parents and teenagers can result in parental depression, and parents of teens who have mental health or behavioral issues are at an especially high risk of depression. A study in a 2011 edition of the Journal of Child and Family Studies found that children of mothers with higher levels of depressive symptoms tended to display more behavioral problems; this study also revealed that there was a high rate of depression among mothers whose children had mental health diagnoses.3 Parents who have teenagers with mental health or behavioral problems likely experience distress that can make them more susceptible to depression.
Consequences of Parental Depression
The distress associated with parenting a teenager with mental health problems can result in depression, and unfortunately, teenagers whose parents suffer from depression could be at risk for a number of negative consequences. A report in a 2011 publication of Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review analyzed the results of 193 studies and found that maternal depression was linked to both internalizing and externalizing psychological disorders, as well as negative emotions and behaviors, among children.4
Based upon the results of the research, children of parents who suffer from depression could also be at risk of developing mental health disorders; fortunately, there are supportive services available for parents and teenagers suffering from depression and other mental health problems. Parents suffering from depression can seek assistance from family therapists to learn effective strategies for coping with their emotions, family conflict, and their teenagers’ behaviors. Teenagers themselves can also benefit from counseling if they are experiencing their own mental and emotional health problems.