International Journal of Psychiatry Research

Abstract

A Critical Evaluation of Risk and Protective Factors Influencing the Development and Maintenance of Internalizing Disorders in Adolescents

Flavia Spiroiu

Internalizing disorders such as anxiety and depression constitute the most common psychopathological conditions experienced by adolescents. Given the profound effect these disorders exert on the cognitive, emotional, interpersonal, and physiological functioning of youth, it is imperative to ascertain the mechanisms whereby they are developed, maintained, ameliorated, and prevented. In this vein, research has generated a large repository of empirical findings concerning risk factors that increase vulnerability to internalizing symptomatology and protective factors that render adolescents more resilient in the face of risk. The primary purpose of this paper is therefore to offer a critical evaluation of the recent literature on risk and protective factors that contribute to the emergence of internalizing disorders in adolescents. The first half of this paper concentrates on individual-level risk factors in the distinct yet interrelated domains of cognition, emotion, temperament, interpersonal conduct, and neurobiology. The various links between family-related and environmental risk factors and adolescent psychopathology are also articulated. The literature on individual-level protective factors in the aforementioned domains is analyzed in the second part of the paper, and this is followed by further evaluation of family and environmental variables believed to confer protective benefits against the onset of anxiety and depression. All individual-level, family, and environmental risk and protective factors henceforth discussed are illustrated in Tables 1 to 6 and Figure 1 of this article. Implications of these findings for the development of effective prevention interventions by, for instance, testing of theoretical models of risk, resiliency, and the mediating and moderating processes underlying the links between risk factors and psychopathology, are also discussed.

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