Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a Framework for Understanding Adolescent Depressive Symptoms Over Time


depression, growth curve analysis, structural equation modeling, Maslow, theoretical


Objectives Worldwide, depression is one of the most common medical disorders in adolescence. Adolescent depressive symptoms generally increase over time, but many experience decreases after an initial peak. The purpose of this paper was to examine ecological predictors of baseline and change in adolescent depressive symptoms using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a framework.

Methods Adolescents (n = 500; 52% female; baseline age 10–13 years) and their parents living in the northwestern United States completed annual questionnaires over six years. A structural equation model growth curve analysis was conducted to examine how family stressors, neighborhood safety, parent-child connectedness, and youth locus of control predicted adolescent depressive symptoms (baseline and growth).

Results Results demonstrated that adolescent locus of control was associated with lower baseline depressive symptoms (β = −0.27, p < 0.001). Parent-child connectedness (youth-report) was indirectly predictive of baseline depressive symptoms through locus of control (β = −0.06, p < 0.05). Family economic stress was predictive of less growth in depressive symptoms over time (β = −0.20, p < 0.05). General family stressors, neighborhood safety, and parent report of parent-child connectedness were not predictive of adolescent depressive symptoms. In a sensitivity analysis using an autoregressive model, adolescent-report of parent-child connectedness was the most consistently predictive measure of adolescent depressive symptoms.

Conclusions Overall, the results suggest that feelings of family connectedness and control are more important to understanding baseline depressive symptoms than physical, contextual factors. However, some adversity may be healthy and provide adolescents with experiences that slow the growth of depression.

Original Publication Citation

Crandall, A., *Powell, E. A., *Bradford, G. C., Magnusson, B. M., Hanson, C. L., Barnes, M. D., Novilla, L. B., & Bean, R. A. (2019). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a framework for understanding adolescent depressive symptoms over time. Journal of Child and Family Studies.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Journal of Child and Family Studies




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor