We know that social support can be a buffer against feeling overwhelmed by stress and experiencing symptoms of depression. While we typically think of social support as having a close group of friends to vent to when problems arise, a recent study of more than 18,000 teenagers has found that positive family relationships are the most effective form of social support for teens with depression. This suggests that teens who feel isolated from their peers or who have been bullied at school are less likely to develop unhealthy relationships in adulthood if they have social support from their families growing up.
How Family Support Affects Mental Health
Secure attachment to family members set the foundation for all other social relationships, as teens learn that they can rely on others for their emotional and physical needs. Cohesive family relationships provide social support and resources that help teens manage the stresses of adolescence and open up conversations about personal problems and coping strategies.
This cohort study conducted by the Carolina Population Center used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health that followed up with participants over 25 years.
In this study, positive family relationships during adolescence were measured by:
- Family Cohesion
- Frequency of communication
- Mutual understanding of emotions
- Engaging in fun family activities together
- Absence of parent-child conflict in the past month over the child’s behavior
What Constitutes Social Support?
Different types of relationships offer different types of support. Families play a unique role in their daughter’s support system by offering multiple types of support.
- Emotional Support involves physical comfort, listening and empathizing. Close friends offer hugs and to listen to your problems, letting you know that they’ve felt the same way, too.
- Esteem Support is shown through encouragement. People may point out your strengths or remind you that they care about you or that they believe in you. Close friends and mentors help build confidence when you’re feeling insecure.
- Informational Support refers to advice-giving or gathering and sharing information that can help people know of potential next steps that may work well. They may either speak from personal experience or share suggestions they’ve heard from others. Professionals can answer a lot of questions you may have about the direction you want to take in life.
- Instrumental Support includes taking on responsibilities for someone else so they can deal with a problem or offering to help deal with whatever problems they’re struggling with. Someone who offers instrumental support may take care of you when you’re sick, help you brainstorm concrete solutions to problems, or offer financial assistance.
The Lasting Effect of Secure Family Relationships
According to this study, family cohesion and the absence of parent-child conflict were associated with a lower risk of depression from adolescence into midlife. The reduction in depressive symptoms associated with positive adolescent family relationships was greater for females and assigned female at birth than males during adolescence and into the early 20s but then leveled out to be equally beneficial for males and females and assigned female at birth throughout young adulthood into midlife.
While this study did not follow up on family cohesion over time, its results suggest that close relationships during adolescence have a lasting effect on levels of depression in adulthood. If your daughter’s depression has affected your family’s communication and connection, it is important to stay involved as part of their support system. Residential treatment centers, like Solstice RTC, believe that healing should be for the entire family, not just your daughter, as the most significant factor in creating positive long-term outcomes for children is parental involvement in the treatment process.
Solstice RTC Can Help
Solstice Residential Treatment Center is a program for young girls and assigned female at birth ages 14-18 who struggle with issues such as anxiety, depression, trauma, and/or relationship struggles. This program provides three types of therapy: individual, group, and family therapy. Solstice Residential Treatment Center is dedicated to teaching teens how to incorporate healthy habits into their lives. Students will leave with the skills they need to transition into the world feeling confident, happy, and able to manage their emotions. We can help your family today!
Contact us at 866-278-3345.