Discrepancies in adolescent-mother dyads' reports of core depression symptoms: Association with adolescents' help-seeking in school and their somatic complaints

Nir Madjar*, Ivonne Mansbach-Kleinfeld, Raida Daeem, Ilana Farbstein, Alan Apter, Silvana Fennig, Rasha Elias, Gal Shoval

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Parents of adolescents with mental problems do not always recognize the symptoms in their children, particularly regarding depression, and therefore do not seek professional help. Adolescents themselves tend to seek help from school personnel for their emotional or social difficulties. In contrast, adolescents do report somatic complaints and parents are likely to seek help for these problems. The current study explored whether the divergence between maternal and child reports of depression symptoms is associated with child's help-seeking in school and patterns of somatic complaints. Method: A sample of 9th grade students (N = 693; 56% girls; mean age = 15.1) and their mothers representing the Muslim and Druze populations in northern Israel were interviewed simultaneously and independently. Maternal reports were classified either as underestimating, matching, or overestimating their own child self-report of three core symptoms of depression (depressed mood, anhedonia, and irritability). Adolescents reported whether they had consulted school staff and were classified into clusters based on self-reported somatic complaints. Results: Maternal misidentification of their child's depression symptoms was associated with increased help-seeking in school, particularly by boys if depressed mood or irritability were misidentified and particularly by girls if anhedonia was misidentified. Hierarchical cluster analysis indicated that the number and severity of somatic complaints was higher among adolescents whose depression symptoms were not identified, regardless of gender. Conclusion: Mental health professionals, educators and parents should be aware that adolescents may attempt to communicate their emotional difficulties through somatic complaints and by seeking help in school.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110222
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
StatePublished - Oct 2020


FundersFunder number
Israel National Institute for Health Policy and Health Services Research
Israel National Institute for Health Policy Research


    • Depression symptoms
    • Help seeking
    • Parent report
    • Parent-child discrepancies
    • Somatic complaints


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