Development and Psychopathology

Regular Articles

Childhood adversities and adolescent depression: A matter of both risk and resilience

Albertine J. Oldehinkela1 c1, Johan Ormela1, Frank C. Verhulsta2 and Esther Nederhofa1

a1 University of Groningen University Medical Center Groningen

a2 Erasmus University Medical Center Sophia Children's Hospital


Childhood adversities have been proposed to modify later stress sensitivity and risk of depressive disorder in several ways: by stress sensitization, stress amplification, and stress inoculation. Combining these models, we hypothesized that childhood adversities would increase risk of early, but not later, onsets of depression (Hypothesis 1). In those without an early onset, childhood adversities were hypothesized to predict a relatively low risk of depression in high-stress conditions (Hypothesis 2a) and a relatively high risk of depression in low-stress conditions (Hypothesis 2b), compared to no childhood adversities. These hypotheses were tested in 1,584 participants of the Tracking Adolescents' Individual Lives Survey, a prospective cohort study of adolescents. Childhood adversities were assessed retrospectively at ages 11 and 13.5, using self-reports and parent reports. Lifetime DSM-IV major depressive episodes were assessed at age 19, by means of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Stressful life events during adolescence were established using interview-based contextual ratings of personal and network events. The results provided support for all hypotheses, regardless of the informant and timeframe used to assess childhood adversities and regardless of the nature (personal vs. network, dependent vs. independent) of recent stressful events. These findings suggest that age at first onset of depression may be an effective marker to distinguish between various types of reaction patterns.


c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Albertine J. Oldehinkel, Interdisciplinary Center Psychopathology and Emotion Regulation, University Medical Center Groningen, CC 72, P.O. Box 30.001, 9700 RB Groningen, The Netherlands; E-mail:


  The first and second authors share equally as first coauthors. This research is part of the Tracking Adolescents' Individual Lives Survey and was made possible by various grants from The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (Medical Research Council Program Grant GB-MW 940-38-011; ZonMW Brainpower Grant 100-001-004; Social Sciences Council Medium-Sized Investment Grants GB-MaGW 480-01-006 and GB-MaGW 480-07-001; Social Sciences Council Project Grant GB-MaGW 452-04-314, and Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research Large-Sized Investment Grant 175.010.2003.005), the Dutch Ministry of Justice, the European Science Foundation (EuroSTRESS Project FP-006), the University Medical Center and the University of Groningen, the Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam, the University of Utrecht, Radboud Medical Center Nijmegen, and the Parnassia Bavo group. We are grateful to all participating adolescents and parents and to everyone who worked on this project and made it possible.