Psychology How Does Depression Affects Adolescents and What Are These Causes and Factors Term Paper

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Erickson's and Piaget's Theory of Child Development & adolescent depression

This is a paper concerning the development stages of an adolescent and depression. Erickson's and Piaget's Theory of Child Development will be used to explain what may lead to a child feeling depressed or suicidal.


Approximately five percent of children and adolescents experience depression at some point in their lives (AACAP 1998). Jean Piaget and Erik Erikson studied the development of the adolescents. Their theories will give clearer understanding to why teenagers become depressed and what can be done about the problem. Depression comes from a variety of problems in the adolescent's life. Recognizing depression is important. "Out of 100,000 adolescents, two to three thousand will have mood disorders out of which 8-10 will commit suicide" (Brown 1996). The causes of depression in a teenager can stem from family problems, peer pressure and bullying, and changes in the teen's life.

Piaget and the Adolescent

The teenager begins to be to function at the third stage of Piaget's cognitive development. he/she realizes that not every one feels the same way he does. he/she begins to think about others. The teen begins to reason deductively. They look at things concretely and literally. The teenager is able to communicate their positions on complex ethical issues and knows how to use conceptual words like freedom and liberty (Lewis 2002). The problem begins when the teenager begins to reason and communicate that he is not equal with his peers. This is especially harmful if the child is experiencing bullying at the school. As they reason deductively they may view the picture as hopeless. Depression begins to over-ride the truth. This is especially true if the bullying has started in early school years and has continued to middle school. "...the history of victimization is a strong predictor of the onset of self-reported symptoms of anxiety and depression and remains so after adjustment for other measures of social relations" (Bond, Carlin, Thomas, Rubin, and Kerryn 2001). Almost 30% of all students with depression stemmed from the history of victimization. This is especially difficult for the teenager who is bullied at school and abused at home. When hopelessness builds up in a teenager, the teenager may decide to commit suicide.

Factors Causing Depression

Other factors that might lead to depression in the adolescent are self-esteem issues, poor body image, stressful life events, and pubertal status (Marcotte, Fortin, Potvin, and Papillon 2002). Erick Erikson's theories stated that in stage four the adolescent works on becoming master of their skills and stage five the adolescent begins to identify who they are. If the adolescent does not master the skills of education in his mind and he feels that he is worthless eventually this might lead to depression and suicide (Lewis 2002). "In the last two decades, depression among teenagers has emerged as a major mental health problem" (Marcotte, Fortin, Potvin and Papillon 2002). Girls have more trouble in accepting their body image than boys. They face losing their prepubertal body imaged that is valued in our society. The stress of the menarche and of beginning to experience sexual life makes this period especially difficult for the female. When a girl has low self-esteem from family problems, or having been victimized by bullying, the girl may develop serious depression.

Erickson and the Adolescent

Part of the problem in teenagers getting depressed is the numerous crises in the teenagers' lives. Erickson said that if crisis is handled appropriately the teenager feels good about it. Often though teenagers do not know how to handle various problems that happen in their lives. The problems grow as they stuff them inwardly and more problems develop and eventually this will result in depression.

National Institute for Mental Health

The National Institute for Mental Health states, "A number of epidemiological studies have reported that... 8.3% of adolescents in the U.S. suffer from depression....In 1997, suicide was the third leading cause of death in 10-to24-year-olds" (NIMH 2000). These are frightening figures that show the seriousness of depression in teenagers. Therefore recognizing the symptoms of depression is vital to families and the school system. Here is a list of symptoms according to the National Institute of Mental Health:

Constant sad or irritable moods lost of interest in things the teen once enjoyed

Changes in appetite or body weight

Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping

Lack of energy

Difficulty in concentrating

Thoughts of death or suicide

Frequent vague, nonspecific physical complaints, such as headaches, muscle aches, and stomachaches.

Frequent absences from school or poor performance in school

Feelings of worthlessness or guilt

Talk of or efforts to run away Lack of interest in playing with or being with friends

Fear of death

Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure

Increased irritability, anger of hostility

Reckless behavior

Difficulty with relationship, teachers, peers and/or family members

The NIMH says that one episode may lead to other episodes. Several episodes of depression are signs of having a long-term problem.

Example of a teen with depression

An example of severe depression:

Faith has crying spells almost every day. At times she does not want to go to school. At school she calls to say she is not feeling well -- she has a headache or stomachache. Faith faces the popular crowd at school and each day she is bullied. The problem started when she first moved to a different school. She tried to fit in with the other students but was too forceful in trying to fit in. She hates school and is experiencing depression. She tells the teachers about the bullying but they like the popular crowd and refused to do anything about the problem. Faith tells her mother who blows up in anger at the principle. This resolves in Faith refusing to tell her mother again. The depression continues to become worse. She starts feeling that the situation is hopeless. One night she decides to take her father's blood pressure medicine. Fortunately, her father sees her. The family takes her to psychotherapy and she is placed on medication too (Woman's Touch 2002).

The signs of Faith's depression were crying spells, her wanting to miss school, the physical complaints, and her feeling hopeless concerning the situation at school. There are many students who commit suicide because of the bullying at school.

Depression in a Child That Is Left Untreated

What happens if a child grows into an adult with depression? "Ten to fifteen years later, 7.7% will have committed suicide. They are five times more likely to attempt suicide (without dying). They are twice as likely to get another episode of depression. Only 37% will have made it to adulthood without getting depressed again. This makes depression one of the most serious medical problems that a teenager can have, and one of the most lethal"(Chandler 2002). Parents and teachers must be aware of the danger of depression in children and try to recognize the symptoms early.

More Reasons Teenagers Become Depressed

Why do some adolescents get depressed? Medical problems can easily lead to depression especially in children who suffer from chronic illnesses. The environment plays a role in adolescents getting depressed. Abuse from home, school, or other can lead to depression. Bullying is a form of abuse. Television can lead to episodes of depression. Many children and adolescents seem to think that what they see on television is real. They do not know or comprehend that it is fantasy. Cigarette Smoking can cause depression. Those who are not depressed who choose to smoke will four times be more likely to get depresses (Chandler 2002). Depression often runs in families. Sometimes the child may inherit depression from genetics. Marital problems are often a number one cause of children and adolescents experiencing depression. Parenting problems can lead to depression too. The question may be asked…

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