Research with community samples suggests that non-affective features of families, such as the amount of time parents and adolescents spend together, affect depressive symptoms in adolescents. It is possible, however, that spending time with parents not only protects against the onset of depressive symptoms, but also reduces symptoms in adolescents who are already depressed. The current study was designed to test this formulation while also examining whether affective dimensions of family functioning - specifically parental warmth - accounted for or moderated observed associations. Finally, we tested the reverse direction of the associations, examining whether greater severity of depression in adolescents results in parents spending less time with them. Forty-one adolescents (ages 14 to 17years) who met criteria for a current major depressive episode participated in the present study with one parent. Once each month for six time points, dyads completed reports of depressive symptoms and the amount of time parents and adolescents spent with each other. Participants also completed measures of parental warmth. Results of lagged multilevel modeling indicated that spending more time with a parent predicted fewer depressive symptoms in adolescents at the following assessment relative to their mean; in contrast, greater severity of depressive symptoms did not predict spending less time with a parent at the following assessment. In contrast, parental warmth did not account for or moderate the association between time together and depressive symptoms. These results suggest that non-affective dimensions of family life, specifically spending more time with parents, have beneficial effects on depressive symptoms in adolescents diagnosed with depression.
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