Childhood socioeconomic status and depressive symptom trajectories in the transition to adulthood in the United States and Canada

Publication type
Journal article
Minh A, Bultmann U, Rejineveld SA, Van Zon SKR, McLeod CB
Date published
2021 Jul 01
Journal of Adolescent Health
Open Access?

Purpose: We examined whether young people in the U.S. and Canada exhibit similar depressive symptom trajectories in the transition to adulthood and compared the effect of childhood socioeconomic status on trajectory membership.Methods: We used the American National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 Child/Young Adult (n = 6,315) and the Canadian National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (n = 3,666). Depressive symptoms were measured using five items from the Center for Epidemiological Studies on Depression scale. Latent trajectories of depressive symptoms from ages 16-25 years were identified using growth mixture models. We estimated the effect of childhood family income, parental education, and parental unemployment on trajectory membership using multivariable Poisson regression models with robust variances.Results: We identified four similar trajectories in the two countries: (1) low stable; (2) mid-peak; (3) increasing; and (4) decreasing. Relatively more Americans were in the low-stable trajectory group than Canadians (77.6% vs. 64.9%), and fewer Americans were in the decreasing group (7.1% vs. 19.1%). In the U.S., childhood family income in the bottom two quartiles was related to higher rates of increasing trajectory membership compared with income in the top quartile (incidence rate ratios: 1.59-1.79, p < .05), but not in Canada. In the U.S., parental education at a high school level was associated with higher rates of decreasing trajectory membership compared with higher education (incidence rate ratio = 1.45, confidence interval: 1.10-1.91; p = .01), but not in Canada.Conclusions: Depressive symptoms may take a similar course in the transition to adulthood within these two countries. Country differences may modify the degree to which childhood socioeconomic status determines trajectory membership.