Interactive effects of psychosocial stress and early pubertal timing on youth depression and anxiety: Contextual amplification in family and peer environments.


While off-time pubertal development has emerged as a potential risk factor for both symptoms of depression and anxiety in youth, the literature is mixed and inconsistent as to (1) how early versus late pubertal timing confers risk for both boys and girls, (2) if the conferred risk is distinct between symptoms of anxiety and depression, and (3) under what social contexts (e.g., family environment, peer relationships) off-time pubertal development may emerge as a potent risk factor for these symptoms. The present study examined the impact of perceived pubertal timing on symptoms of anxiety and depression in two distinct psychosocial contexts: parent’s perceptions of their own harsh parenting and parent’s perceptions of their child’s peer problems. The sample consisted of 412 parents (M = 38.6 years old, SD = 7.8, 60.4 % mothers) of children between the ages of 8 and 17 (M = 12.13, SD = 2.97, 45.4 % girls). All constructs were assessed by parent reports. Linear multiple regression analyses revealed that the interaction between earlier pubertal timing and greater peer problems was significantly related to higher youth depressive and anxiety symptoms. The interaction between earlier pubertal timing and greater harsh discipline was significantly related to higher youth anxiety but not depressive symptoms. Youth gender did not qualify findings. Results suggest that the contextual amplification process of early pubertal timing may occur in both high stress family and peer environments and impact both girls and boys.