Mental illness -- particularly depression -- is a rising problem with youth. Two recent studies published in the Pertanika Journal of Social Sciences & Humanities shed light on the relationship between poor family dynamics and the development of mental illness in Malaysia.
In one study, Irene Li Yin Tan and colleagues at the Universiti Putra Malaysia examined how verbal abuse may contribute to "internalizing problems" -- including anxiousness, depression and insecurity -- among 11-13 year old students. In particular, they focused on whether adolescents with a negative or pessimistic "attributional style" are at greater risk, as a result of verbal abuse. (A person's attributional style is the way they explain to themselves why they experience a particular life event).
The study found that a pessimistic attributional style partly mediates the relationship between verbal abuse and the development of internalizing problems. The researchers recommend that practitioners treating at-risk youth take into account their attributional style and investigate possible experiences of verbal abuse. "Cognitive therapy that trains one's cognitive skills, changing one's pessimism to a more flexible optimism, has always been an effective way of treating internalizing problems," they note.
Verbal Abuse and Internalizing Problems in Early Adolescence: Negative Attributional Style as Mediator
In a related study, Rozumah Baharudin and colleagues at the Universiti Putra Malaysia examined the relationship between perceived parental warmth, self-esteem and depression among 13-15 year olds. The results showed that parental warmth is indirectly linked to self-esteem and depression: youth who reported a lack of parental warmth tended to have less self-esteem and a higher tendency to experience depression.
Among the implications, the team recommends that practitioners develop a "cognitive reappraisal" program for at-risk youth. Adolescents who feel they lack parental warmth "could be taught to modify their perception from the thought of not being a worthy individual to the thought that lacking parental warmth does not devalue their sense of worth," the researchers suggest.
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