Linking Community, Parenting, and Depressive Symptom Trajectories: Testing Resilience Models of Adolescent Agency Based on Race/Ethnicity and Gender
Family stress models illustrate how communities affect youth outcomes through effects on parents and studies consistently show the enduring effects of early community context. The present study takes a different approach identifying human agency during adolescence as a potentially significant promotive factor mediating the relationship between community, parenting, and mental health. While agency is an important part of resilience, its longitudinal effects are unknown, particularly based on gender and race/ethnicity. The purpose of this research was to model the long-term effects of community structural adversity and social resources as predictors of adolescent depressive symptom trajectories via indirect effects of parental happiness, parent–child relationships, and human agency. Latent growth analyses were conducted with 1,796 participants (53 % female; 56 % White) across four waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health spanning adolescence (Wave 1) through adulthood (Wave 4). The results identified agency as an important promotive factor during adolescence with long-term mental health benefits, but only for White and male participants. For these individuals, community social resources and the quality of the parent–child relationship were related to higher levels of agency and more positive mental health trajectories. Although community social resources similarly benefitted parenting and agency among females and non-White participants, there were no significant links between agency and depressive symptoms for these youth. The results suggest that agency remains an important, but poorly understood concept and additional work is necessary to continue unpacking its meaning for diverse groups of youth.
KeywordsAdolescence Agency Depressive symptoms Community Resilience
This research uses data from Add Health, a program project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and funded by grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 23 other federal agencies and foundations. Special acknowledgment is due Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Information on how to obtain the Add Health data files is available on the Add Health website (http://www.cpc.unc.edu/addhealth). No direct support was received from grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
AW conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, measurement construction, performed the statistical analyses, and drafted the manuscript; MM participated in the design and interpretation of the data, and helped draft the manuscript. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.
- Arnett, J. (2004). Emerging adulthood: The winding road from the late teens through the twenties. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Boo, K. (2003, November 1). After welfare. The New Yorker. http://newyorker.com/printable/?archive/030818fr_archive0.
- Brooks-Gunn, J., Duncan, G., & Aber, L. (1997). Neighborhood poverty: Context and consequences for children (Vol. 1). New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
- Browne, M., & Cudeck, R. (1993). Alternative ways of assessing model fit. In K. A. Bollen & J. S. Long (Eds.), Testing structural equations models (pp. 136–162). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
- Danish, S. (1997). Going for the goal: A life skills program for adolescents. In G. Albee & T. Gullotta (Eds.), Issues in children’s and families lives: Primary prevention works (pp. 291–312). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
- Elder, G., & Hitlin, S. (2007). Agency: An empirical model of an abstract concept. Advances in Life Course Research, 11, 33–67.Google Scholar
- Greene, R. (2002). Resiliency: An integrated approach to practice, policy, and research. Washington, DC: NASW Press.Google Scholar
- Kline, R. (2011). Principles and practice of structural equation modeling (3rd ed.). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Little, T. D., Snyder, C. R., & Wehmeyer, M. (2006). The agentic self: On the nature and origins of personal agency across the life span. In D. K. Mroczek & T. D. Little (Eds.), Handbook of personality development (pp. 61–79). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Marsh, H., Hau, K., & Wen, Z. (2004). In search of golden rules: Comment on hypothesis-testing approaches to setting cutoff values for fit indexes and dangers in overgeneralizing Hu and Bentler’s (1999) findings. Structural Equation Modeling, 11(3), 320–341. doi: 10.1207/s15328007sem1103_2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Masten, A., Cutuli, J., Herbers, J., & Reed, M. (2009). Resilience in development. In C. Snyder & S. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology (2nd ed., pp. 117–131). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. O. (1998–2011). Mplus User’s Guide (6th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Muthén & Muthén.Google Scholar
- Paradis, A., Giaconia, G., Reinherz, H., Beardslee, W., Ward, K., & Fitzmaurice, G. (2011). Adolescent family factors promoting healthy adult functioning: A longitudinal community study. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 16(1), 30–37. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-3588.2010.00577.x.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Reingle, J. M., Jennings, W. G., & Maldonado-Molina, M. (2011). The mediated effect of contextual risk factors on trajectories of violence: Results from a nationally representative, longitudinal sample of Hispanic adolescents. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 36, 327–343. doi: 10.1007/s12103-011-9138-y.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Rosenfield, S., & Mouzen, D. (2013). Gender and mental health. In C. S. Aneshensel, et al. (Eds.), Handbook of the sociology of mental health (2nd ed., pp. 277–296). New York, NY: Springer.Google Scholar
- Shaw, C., & McKay, H. (2002). Delinquency rates and community characteristics. In S. Cote (Ed.), Criminological theories: Bridging the past to the future. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
- Werner, E., & Johnson, J. (1999). Can we apply resilience? In M. Glantz & J. Johnson (Eds.), Resilience and development: Positive life adaptations. New York, NY: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.Google Scholar
- Wickrama, K. A. S., Conger, R., Lorenz, F., & Jung, T. (2008). Family antecedents and consequences of trajectories of depressive symptoms from adolescence to young adulthood: A life course investigation. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 49, 468–483. doi: 10.1177/002214650804900407.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Williams, A., & Merten, M. (in press). Characteristics of early community adversity and social resources and adolescent long-term mental health. Journal of Community Psychology.Google Scholar