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Trends in adolescent emotional problems in Wales between 2013 and 2019: the contribution of peer relationships

Anthony, Rebecca ORCID:, Moore, Graham ORCID:, Page, Nicholas ORCID:, Ollerhead, Catherine, Parker, Jack, Murphy, Simon ORCID:, Rice, Frances ORCID:, Armitage, Jessica ORCID: and Collishaw, Stephan ORCID: 2023. Trends in adolescent emotional problems in Wales between 2013 and 2019: the contribution of peer relationships. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 10.1111/jcpp.13924

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Background Epidemiological evidence shows a substantial increase in adolescent emotional problems in many countries, but reasons for this increase remain poorly understood. We tested change in emotional problems in a national sample of young people in Wales in 2013, 2017 and 2019 using identical symptom screens, and examined whether trends were accounted for by changes in youth friendship quality and bullying. Methods The present study of 230,735 11–16-year olds draws on repeat cross-sectional data obtained on three occasions (2013, 2017 and 2019) in national school-based surveys in Wales (conducted by the School Health Research Network). Emotional problems were assessed with a brief validated symptom screen (the SCL-4). Results There was a significant increase in emotional problem scores between 2013 and 2019 (b[95% CI] = 1.573 [1.380, 1.765]). This increase was observed for all ages and was more pronounced for girls than boys (interaction b [95% CI] = 0.229 [0.004, 0.462]) and for young people from less affluent families (interaction b [95% CI] = −0.564[−0.809, −0.319]). Of the total sample, 14.2% and 5.7% reported frequent face-to-face and cyberbullying respectively. There were modest decreases in friendship quality and increases in rates of bullying between 2013 and 2019, but accounting for these changes did not attenuate estimates of the population-level increase in emotional problems. Conclusions This study provides evidence of a substantial increase in emotional problems among young people in Wales, particularly for young people from less affluent backgrounds. Changes in bullying or friendship quality did not explain this increase.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Medicine
Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer)
MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics (CNGG)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 0021-9630
Funders: MRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 13 December 2023
Date of Acceptance: 27 September 2023
Last Modified: 15 Jan 2024 12:04

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