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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University March 6, 2006 | Vol. 35 No. 24
Depressive Symptoms in Teens Are Associated With Parental Violence

By Tim Parsons
School of Public Health

Adolescents who witness domestic violence between their parents are significantly more likely to suffer from symptoms of depression. In a study of adolescents in the Philippines conducted by Michelle Hindin, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Socorro Gultiano, of the University of San Carlos in the Philippines, nearly half of all young people reported witnessing parental domestic violence. One in 10 of the male adolescents and one in five of the female adolescents reported wishing they were dead occasionally or most of the time in the four weeks preceding the survey.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Adolescent mental health issues are relatively understudied, particularly in the developing world, where more than 1 billion 10-to-19-year-olds live. This study is among the first conducted in the developing world to explore adolescent mental health and its association with parental domestic violence. Its findings will appear in the April edition of the American Journal of Public Health.

"We found that young women reported the most depressive symptoms when they recalled that a parent needed medical attention as a result of domestic violence. Young men reported the most symptoms when they recalled mutual violence between their parents," said Hindin, an assistant professor in the Bloomberg School's Department of Population and Family Health Sciences.

For the study, Hindin and Gultiano used data from 2,051 young men and women aged 17 to 19, collected from the 2002 Cebu Longitudinal Health Nutrition Survey. In face-to-face interviews, the young people were asked whether they had witnessed domestic violence or experienced any depressive symptoms during the previous month. Depressive symptoms included headaches, poor digestion, worry, loneliness, trouble sleeping and thoughts about death or taking one's own life.

"Mental health and domestic violence are increasing public health concerns. Interventions that prevent domestic violence may also help prevent the severity of depressive symptoms in adolescents," Hindin said.

Funding for the study, written by Hindin and Gultiano, was provided by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and Fogarty International.


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