Exploring the complex association between pubertal development and depression in African American and European American girls

Kate Keenan, Kristen M. Culbert, Kevin Grimm, Alison E. Hipwell, Stephanie D. Stepp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


The relative contribution of pubertal timing and tempo to the development of depression has not been tested in a large, representative sample, nor has the interface among pubertal maturation, depression, and race been tested. Participants were a community-based sample of 2,450 girls from the Pittsburgh Girls Study who were interviewed annually from ages 9 to 17 years. Pubertal timing and tempo were characterized as a unitary construct and also separately for pubic hair and breast development using child and maternal report. Depression symptoms were assessed annually. African American girls had higher depression symptoms and progressed through puberty earlier, but at a slower tempo than European American girls. Girls with earlier timing had higher levels of depression symptoms at age 10 years. Slower tempo was associated with higher depression symptoms at age 10, and faster tempo was associated with increases in depression from ages 10 to 13. As well, race moderated the associations among timing, tempo, and depression symptoms, and the association between race and depression was partially mediated by pubertal timing and tempo. Pubertal timing and tempo and race contribute to the developmental course of depression from early to late adolescence. The pattern of association varies as a function of the developmental window within which depression is assessed. Thus, repeated measures of depression symptoms and puberty across the span of pubertal development are necessary for exploring the relative importance of dimensions of pubertal development to depression etiology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)725-736
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Abnormal Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2014


  • Depression
  • Puberty
  • Race
  • Tempo
  • Timing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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