Essay on Contribution of Peers and Social Contagion in Adolescent Depression

Essay on Contribution of Peers and Social Contagion in Adolescent Depression

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The study is an attempt to tease and test the concept of socialization (the process of influence or contagion among peers) among adolescents. The authors examine the theory from the aspect of the internalizing symptoms of depression. While the relevance of peer contagion among reciprocated and unreciprocated best friends has been studied longitudinally amongst 6th and 8th graders, this paper attempts to delineate moderators of this relationship in 11th and 12th graders.1
The first moderator subgroup studied was the target-oriented moderators. Here the authors use self esteem and social anxiety as parameters (person oriented moderators) in their model to predict longitudinally associations between friends’ and the study participants’ depressive symptoms. A moderator is by definition an effect modifier. The results the author presented supported a significant three-way interaction of social anxiety, depressive symptoms and gender, suggesting that girls were significantly more susceptible to effect of social anxiety. However even among girls the effect of social anxiety was significant only with high levels of anxiety and no significant association was revealed under conditions of low social anxiety. These results took me back to our first few classes where we talked of the diathesis stress model and how a major determinant of stress was its appraisal.2 Here the authors used self report measures of social anxiety, which suggests to me that adolescents who perceived interaction with unfamiliar peers and new situations as stressful would have a lower threshold (predisposing diathesis) for development of symptoms of depression irrespective of their friends’ predisposition. Furthermore as students stay in the same environment until the...

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...n of effect of peer contagion.
The attempt at delineating second degree relationships (effect modifiers) between peer influence and adolescent depression is important as it gives opportunities for prevention and intervention. Effect modifiers allow convergence on select focus groups at highest risk. We can then design strategies tailored to specific target groups that will yield maximum returns for the invested resources. Studies that elucidate the finer aspects of an association result in better bargaining power for policy advocacy. Moreover longitudinal nature of the study further strengths its findings. However further research is needed to build on this study. An examination of each moderator in detail, accounting for the pushes and pulls that operate in the development of adolescent depression will help refine the contribution of peers and social contagion.

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