Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Science (BS)




Janice Zeman

Committee Members

Daniel Parker

Kaitlyn Harrigan


A growing body of literature using primarily samples of adults suggests a link between specific patterns of language use and depression (e.g., Rude, Gortner, & Pennebaker, 2004). The current study sought to evaluate whether this link might exist in adolescence, particularly given the rise in depression that occurs in this stage (Garber, Weiss, & Shanley, 1993). This linkage was investigated using a cross-sectional and 2-year longitudinal design, utilizing a community sample of 192 adolescents (Mage = 12.65, 53.1% girls, 76.0% White, middle-class). Adolescents reported on their depression and engaged in a 15-minute discussion task with their good friend. Four specific patterns of language use were evaluated from the videotaped discussion task and included pronouns, tense, positive and negative emotion word use and specific negative emotion word use. Further, the role of gender was examined as a potential moderator of the relation between language use and depression. Relations were found between language patterns and depression both concurrently and longitudinally, with notable developmental differences. At both time points, first-person singular pronouns predicted greater depressive symptoms. Second-person pronoun use significantly predicted greater depressive symptoms concurrently. Use of present tense significantly predicted depressive symptoms concurrently, whereas future tense use significantly predicted greater depressive symptoms at both time points. Adolescents who used more sadness emotion words reported greater depressive symptoms. Gender moderated the relation between positive emotion words and depressive symptoms concurrently and at both time points for anxiety words and depressive symptoms. Taken together, these findings add to our understanding of depression, and may help to inform preventative intervention for adolescent depression.

On-Campus Access Only