Depression is a common disorder among children (less than 18 years). Approximately 5% of children at any one time may suffer from serious depression. The prevalence of depression increases with age, especially after the onset of puberty. There is no gender-related difference in the prevalence of depression among pre-adolescent children. However, onset of puberty is associated with a marked increase in the rate of depression among females, with a female to male ratio of 2:1.
John Bennett ¸University of Michigan
While some researchers have suggested that hormonal changes may be the cause of the sudden rise in depression among young women, others have found that measurable hormonal changes have no direct correlation with depression in adolescents. Gender differences in attitudes toward secondary sex characteristics, do correlate with depression, though it’s hard to know if the differences in attitudes are a cause of depression or an effect (or both) IQ correlates with depression in girls. (Smart girls are more likely to become depressed.) In boys the correlation is inverse (stupid boys get depressed more often)

Why is puberty such a depressing time for young women? Could it be the increasing emphasis on appearance?

Girls usually begin puberty approximately two years before boys. Therefore, they experience the dramatic bodily changes that secondary sex characteristics bring, such as breast development and weight gain, while boys’ bodies stay the same for a couple more years. Girls tend to dislike the physical changes in their bodies, especially the weight gain that makes their bodies curvier. However, boys tend to like their physical changes once puberty hits (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1990).
The pressure to cease being a tomboy? So, what is it?: the transformation from a fairy princess in to a potential liability, an object whose chastity must be guarded? Could it be the fact that until puberty girls are pretty much as strong and as fast as boys and just as fierce at winning at tag or dodgeball?

There is no accepted reason for the higher rates of depression among women, or the puberty correlation—

Another study showed that a mother's depression may cause her daughter to hit puberty earlier (Journal of the Society for Research in Child Development: Bruce J. Ellis, PhD, of the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand and Judy Garber, PhD, of Vanderbilt University in Nashville) Is the daughter rushing to join her mother in the sadness of womanhood?

That said, there's another aspect to all this: puberty is downright scary. Never mind "weight gain", or "curves": when I was growing up in the early 70's, most women of note were tall, thin, and had perfectly straight blonde or dark hair, unlike today, when you actually can have a few quirks. Since I'd always been round, it wasn't that -- a few pounds one way or the other didn't affect me. Nor was it losing tomboy initiative, fairy princess self-esteem or being told to think about boys, not math and painting. No. It's something like this.

By the age of ten or eleven, your body seems set. You're still growing, an inch or two every few months, but there's no surprises: you have three well-defined major orifices, a flat chest that you're supposed to hide, but no one seems to react if your undershirt comes off, say, while fleeing a strange dog, four serviceable, vaguely cylindrical limbs of medium strength, and a face that, barring small scrapes or insect bites, is a smooth, uniform bisque, easily cleaned with castile soap and water. You enjoy reasonable good health, and body maintenance is a simple, effortless routine.

And then, it happens. Your nipples, which up until then had seemed purely decorative, begin to feel. Then hurt. Your favorite cotton dress chafes at the end of the day, and if you try to rub on them, you get a weird feeling in a part of your tummy you didn't even think you had. And it gets worse.

All of a sudden, males turn from being disinterested at worst and companions at best to being actively hostile. They point at you and start to make coarse jokes and use bad words. Ordinary conversation with them becomes next to impossible.

"So my mom bought me this peacock feather..."
"Hehehehehe, she said 'cock'."
"She said 'pee'."
"She said pee cock. Geddit? Pee? Cock?"

"Jay likes you."
"So why isn't he telling me this?"
"He's shy. Go and talk to him."
"OK, Jay, what's up."
"Get away from me."
...followed by a fight. They're suddenly all bigger and stronger than you, and something funny keeps happening down in their groinal area. So you stop talking to them.

Hair begins to sprout from embarrassing places, and your mother begins to tell you to use deodorant. And for good reason -- you stink. Not like normal sweat, which is mostly just water, this is oily, rank sweat that makes your hair gooey and glazes your face with grease. Then the bleeding starts, and the cramps and the fainting, and no amount of Hygiene classes can prepare you for it -- at first, I thought I had caught some bizarre disease. Hair also grows on your legs and arms, and it seems like every other comment by older relatives sounds like "You're such a pretty girl...why don't you..." followed with some comment designed to make you feel as if you've suddenly become a hairy bloated bag of oozing pus. This is followed by finding out that you are oozing pus, all over your face. Crying doesn't help much: your mother and her friends (and the school social worker) simply tut-tut about hormones, and reiterate the speech about how a pretty girl like you shouldn't...

And other girls aren't much help. If you're developing more than everyone else you feel like a cow. If you're not developing fast enough, you feel inadequate. Just a year or so ago, you could hug your friends, and walk hand in hand, or even arm in arm -- no one cared. If you touched another girl, on the arm or shoulder, or brushed against her, it didn't mean anything more than a mild social faux pas. Now, it seems like everyone tells you that you're like Elizabeth Bean (whoever she is), who is the embodiment of all things disgusting, or a slut, who is somehow even worse, if you try hanging out with the boys. Every small detail of your attire, grooming, speech and behavior gets nitpicked into oblivion, and everyone seems revolted/fascinated by the smallest bit of dirt, whether it's on your body, or not.

At night, strange fantasies stir, and bizarre images float through one's brain -- and the contralto voice of love and death begins to sing...

Little wonder we were depressed. My classmates read books about saintly people who conquered handicaps and died young, and drew pictures of couples in identical T-shirts and jeans seen from behind. (There was a considerable contingent obsessed with the book/film The Exorcist as well.) My cure was becoming an "aesthete" proto-Goth, reading H.P. Lovecraft, Symbolist poetry, and the lives of artists and poets who died young. No monster I met was quite as horrific as what I had become.

I was once a depressed adolescent girl too, and for me it wasn't any scary bodily changes ("Are You There God it's Me Margaret" by Judy Bloom got me hyped) that did it but more the change in how my (female) class mates reacted to me... from 11- 14 was when cliques formed, along with the hierarchy of popular and unpopular, and it seems that many girls (such as I) had problems dealing with the new set of rules. And those youngster who don't conform to the new, quiet particular 13 year old version of social acceptability pay with ostracization.

It is very stressful to have your reputation or “social credibility” constantly at stake (or at least to think you do), and the easy relationships once enjoyed between friends suddenly warp as both children respond differently to hormonal/social changes... During adolescence I was surrounded by a fine amount of people, but still ended up feeling lonely because everyone (me too) was pretending to fit into a pop culture based off Cosmo Girl magazine, which at 11-14 I don't think anyone genuinely related to, so I just assumed that I was "different" and no one would understand me and stopped trying to honestly communicate. It was quiet melodramatic.

While all the above reasons are certainly true, there is one point that no one really thinks about.

Adolescent girls feel their bodies are actively working against them. It's one thing to be lonely, but it's a horse of a different color if your body hates you too. It likes to cause you pain and then it decides to bleed out of weird places and you can't control it! It's the ultimate treachery.

If a girl isn't friendless or insecure, the reason she is depressed is because her own body is trying to kill her. Trust me, I know from experience.

No doubt about it, puberty depressed the hell out of me. I think the depression lasted longer than the puberty. It sure felt that way. Sometimes, it still feels that way. For me, and I'm sure for other women too, the reason was that puberty completely changed my relationship with the world. It launched me, against my will, from by-stander to target.

When I was a girl, I took particular delight in my ability to silently slip into a room unseen, to fly below the radar, as it were. My mom used to say I could sneak up on a cat. Kids can have that privilege, of being background. They are assumed to pose no threat and thus usually are left to play, to be kids. If I didn't want to be somewhere, I just slipped away.

Puberty changed all of that. The reason it sent my body and I to war was because it brought unwanted attention. I felt the same, but everywhere I went, men acted differently. I could no longer slip in and out. I had to be wary, or risk being caught. It is surprising (I hope) to anyone who didn't have to go through this how many men there are out there who would sexually assault a young, adolescent female without a second thought. I cannot tell you how many times I wove, ducked, and darted to avoid hands. I would not wish you to have been in my place the times men's crotches were deliberately thrust towards my face while I sat on the bus - let alone the time one guy's zipper was undone. All of the sudden, guys started claiming I owed them things, due to some effect I had on them without intention or desire on my part. I remember one night when I was 13, out with my sister and some older friends of hers, being told in no uncertain terms what kind of a girl I was if I tried to escape that responsibility. Over and over, the message was, your body isn't yours anymore.

It has taken me roughly till now, my mid-twenties, to make peace with my body and stop hating it for increasing my vulnerability. I'm a very careful dresser now, always editing the messages I could be sending out. I still struggle with sexual objectification some days, even days when I wear a suit. It all depends who I encounter over the course of a given day. My body and I are reconciling some 13 years of acrimony, all because it went round without ever asking how I felt.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.