Skip to content

    Health & Parenting

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Optimism May Protect Teens Against Depression

    Study Shows Optimism in Teens May Also Prevent Substance Abuse and Antisocial Behavior

    Evaluating Optimism in Teens continued...

    "It may just be that the set-point for getting into a negative way of thinking and the loss of self-confidence that go with depression is just that much lower for optimists and that is the reason for its protective effects," Patton says.

    Lack of optimism seemed to affect girls more than boys, he found, when it came to the depression link. Boys with low optimism levels were about half as likely to get depressed as girls with low optimism.

    Those with high optimism were less likely to engage in heavy substance use or antisocial behavior, but the association was more modest than the link with depression.

    How Parents Can Help Teens

    While parents of teens may be tempted to just encourage their kids to ''think positive," that's not the take-home message, Patton tells WebMD. "Simply saying look on the bright side of life is not going to be helpful alone."

    Instead, he says, parents should help teens develop more effective responses to problems of everyday life such as handling conflict.

    He also suggests, when a teen has a crisis, that parents talk to them about the bad things that have happened. Especially useful, he says, is helping your teen learn to put things in perspective and to put themselves in another's shoes.

    Simply telling a teen to think positively may actually backfire, agrees Alec L. Miller, PsyD, director of the adolescent depression and suicide program and chief of child and adolescent psychology at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. "It can inflame and exacerbate [the situation]," says Miller, who is also professor of clinical psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He reviewed the study for WebMD.

    When teens seem depressed, he says, parents might help by gently saying they understand about feeling depressed. Next, they might suggest: "Let's look at the evidence to see if the situation is as bad as you think it might be."

    From that point, he says, you can encourage your teen to move to a more optimistic perspective.

    1 | 2

    Today on WebMD

    Girl holding up card with BMI written
    Is your child at a healthy weight?
    toddler climbing
    What happens in your child’s second year.
     
    father and son with laundry basket
    Get your kids to help around the house.
    boy frowning at brocolli
    Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
     
    mother and daughter talking
    Tool
    child brushing his teeth
    Slideshow
     
    Sipping hot tea
    Slideshow
    Young woman holding lip at dentists office
    Video
     
    Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
    Article
    rl with friends
    fitSlideshow
     
    tissue box
    Quiz
    Child with adhd
    Slideshow