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Sex Differences in Adolescent Depression: Stress Exposure and Reactivity Models


  • This work was supported, in part, by Grants R03-MH 066845 from NIMH, CA80266 from NCI, and a grant from the Tobacco Etiology Research Network, funded by RWJF.

concerning this article should be addressed to Benjamin L. Hankin, Department of Psychology, University of South Carolina, Barnwell College, Columbia, SC 29208. Electronic mail may be sent to


Stress exposure and reactivity models were examined as explanations for why girls exhibit greater levels of depressive symptoms than boys. In a multiwave, longitudinal design, adolescents' depressive symptoms, alcohol usage, and occurrence of stressors were assessed at baseline, 6, and 12 months later (N=538; 54.5% female; ages 13–18, average 14.9). Daily stressors were coded into developmentally salient domains using a modified contextual-threat approach. Girls reported more depressive symptoms and stressors in certain contexts (e.g., interpersonal) than boys. Sex differences in depression were partially explained by girls reporting more stressors, especially peer events. The longitudinal direction of effects between depression and stressors varied depending on the stressor domain. Girls reacted more strongly to stressors in the form of depression.