Unstable Home Lives Causing Depression in Teens

Not every depressed teenager comes from a troubled home, but many of them do. Instability at home, combined with the pressures of school, romantic relationships, and even the nuances found in different friendships, can make life difficult to navigate for a teen. A lack of support at home can make a young person's mood spiral downward.

Signs and Symptoms of Teen Depression

Many factors can cause teen depression -- hormones, academic pressure and the desire to fit in are all enough to bring a teenager down 1. It can be challenging to determine whether a child’s flat mood is simply teen angst or something more serious. The symptoms of teen depression generally include apathy; complaints of physical pain like headaches, stomach aches, and fatigue; difficulty concentrating and making decisions; a loss of appetite or overeating; talk of death or dying; irresponsible behavior; experimentation with drugs and alcohol; and sexual promiscuity, according to MayoClinic.com 1.

The Impact of Family Dysfunction

Regardless of what a child is going through at school, in his circle of friends, or hormonally, parents are the biggest influence in his life. The environment at home can set the tone for every other aspect of daily living. According to MayoClinic.com, a teen’s risk of depression increases if someone in their family has bipolar disorder, depression, alcoholism, or has committed suicide 1. The risk also increases if instability and conflict exists in the home. Divorce, the death of a loved one and the prolonged absence of a loved one can also be underlying factors in a child’s depressed mood. A 2011 National Institute of Health study found that children who experienced their parents’ relationship instability before the age of 5 were more likely to experience a major episode of depression in adolescence 2. According to that same study, these children were also more likely to experience instability in their own relationships with their parents. Depressive symptoms in youths who experienced their parents’ separation might worsen throughout later adolescence and into early adulthood. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in four teenagers from military families will experience symptoms of depression.

Causes and Triggers

Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, which is often genetic. However, it can be triggered in teens by major life events or something as "small" as a breakup with a girlfriend or boyfriend. Family addiction, any type of abuse -- physical, sexual, psychological -- and realistic expectations -- or no expectations at all -- can set off a chemical imbalance and result in the despairing and sometimes hopeless signs of depression, according to the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Location Matters, Too

The instability of a teen’s residence might also plunge him into sadness. A 2009 study by the University of Aarhus in Denmark revealed that the more frequently an adolescent moved from home to home, the more likely he was to attempt suicide. About 55 percent of the youths researchers studied who had attempted suicide had moved over three times compared to 32 percent of nonsuicidal children. Additionally, 7.4 percent of suicidal children had moved more than 10 times, compared to 1.9 percent of nonsuicidal children.