Josephine Chou

Major and Classification

Psychology and Minor in Religion

Faculty Mentor

Darby Saxbe, Ph.D.


Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

McNair Project

“Withdrawal Behavior as a Moderator between Family Aggression and Adolescent Depression”

Project Abstract

While social withdrawal is characteristic of depressed adolescents, it is unknown whether withdrawal behavior (WB) is merely a consequence of depression or if it is a contributing factor. Using a multi-measure, longitudinal design, this study assessed whether withdrawal behavior, operationalized in terms of self-reported avoidant coping strategies, moderates the effect of family aggression (FA) on the development of depressive symptoms in youth. We found that withdrawal behavior and a history of family aggression were significant predictors of depression (βWB = 0.31, p<0.01; βFA = 0.29, p=0.01). However, withdrawal behavior did not significantly modify the effect of family aggression on depression (p>0.05). This study also tested the validity of novel measures of withdrawal behavior, talk time (duration) and number of talk turns during a family discussion that included both parents and the youth. Through a comparison of self-reported withdrawal-based coping strategies at age 13 with adolescents’ speech patterns during a laboratory-based family conflict discussion conducted at age 15, we found neither the talk time nor the talk turn variables to be significant predictors of withdrawal-based coping (p>0.05). However, talk time was a significant predictor of depression (β =.29; p<0.05). These findings indicate that talk time may be a useful tool for identifying youth at risk for depression.