Preventing adolescent depression with the Family Check-Up: Examining family conflict as a mechanism of change

Gregory M. Fosco, Mark J. Van Ryzin, Arin M. Connell, Elizabeth A. Stormshak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Family-centered prevention programs are understudied for their effects on adolescent depression, despite considerable evidence that supports their effectiveness for preventing escalation in youth problem behavior and substance use. This study was conducted with 2 overarching goals: (a) replicate previous work that has implicated the Family Check-Up (FCU), a multilevel, gated intervention model embedded in public middle schools, as an effective strategy for preventing growth in adolescent depressive symptoms and (b) test whether changes in family conflict may be an explanatory mechanism for the long-term, protective effects of the FCU with respect to adolescent depression. This trial was conducted with 593 ethnically diverse families who were randomized to intervention (offered the FCU) or middle school as usual. Complier average causal effect (CACE) analysis revealed that engagers in the FCU evidenced less growth in depressive symptoms and family conflict from 6th through 9th grade, and post hoc analyses indicated that the FCU is related to lower rates of major depressive disorder. The second set of analyses examined family conflict as a mechanism of change for families who participated in the FCU. Families who reported short-term intervention benefits had significantly less escalation in family conflict over the middle school years; in turn, growth in family conflict explained risk for adolescent depressive symptoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)82-92
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)


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