This multi-wave longitudinal study addressed a research gap in the literature by examining how different maltreatment subtypes independently impact depressed mood and anhedonia over time in a diverse adolescent sample.
Maltreatment exposure is a robust predictor of adolescent depression. Yet despite this well-documented association, few studies have simultaneously examined how maltreatment subtypes relate to qualitatively distinct depressive symptoms. In the current study, adolescents (N = 673, Mage = 14.83, SDage = 0.66, 57.1 percent female, 32.8 percent Hispanic, 30.4 percent Caucasian, 25.0 percent African American) completed self-report inventories for child-maltreatment and annual self-report measures of depressed mood and anhedonia over the course of 6 years. Latent-growth-curve modeling was used to test how maltreatment exposure predicted anhedonia and depressed mood, and whether these relations differed as a function of sex and/or race/ethnicity. Overall, both emotional abuse (p < .001) and neglect (p = .002) predicted levels of depressed mood over time; whereas, only emotional neglect predicted levels (p < .001) and trajectories (p = .001) of anhedonia. Physical and sexual abuse did not predict depressive symptoms after accounting for emotional abuse and neglect (ns). These findings were largely invariant across sex and race. Findings suggest that the consequences of emotional neglect may be especially problematic in adolescence because of its impact on both depressed mood and anhedonia, and that emotional abuse’s association with depression is best explained via symptoms of depressed mood. These findings are congruent with recent findings that more “silent types” of maltreatment uniquely predict depression, and that abuse and neglect experiences confer distinct profiles of risk for psychological distress. (publisher abstract modified)