Environmental Factors Contributing to Depressive Symptomatology Among Adolescents in the Jewish Orthodox Community: A Study of Context

Avraham Grunberger, Pace University


Recently, increasing attention has been directed to the plight of socio-emotional development in adolescence. The Jewish Orthodox community (JOC) has, in consonance with the burgeoning literature in this area, initiated several formal and informal methods to identify at-risk youth in an effort to promote awareness in the general community and devise culturally-sensitive treatment methods to support its adolescent population. This study attempted to evaluate the nature and extent of depressive presentations amongst a unique and understudied population of adolescents. Social and family support mechanisms, help seeking behavior, and the stigma related to mental illness were hypothesized as important contributors to understanding depressive presentations in Jewish Orthodox youth. The sample consisted of 66 adolescents in attendance at Jewish Orthodox institutions. Participants were provided with measures and a follow-up interview to address depressive symptoms, nature and extent of stigma and help seeking behaviors, and social support mechanisms from family and peers. Responses were analyzed to determine relationships amongst variables and to identify predictors of depression and help-seeking behaviors. Results indicated that self-report of depressive symptoms was unrelated to social support, family cohesiveness, and stigma. Intra-individual differences were indicated, however, such that adolescents in the sample that were female, older, or shared both characteristics were more likely to screen positive on depression measures. Gender contributed significantly to differences in help-seeking behaviors. Subjects of increasing age were more likely to endorse higher levels of social support, lowered self-stigma and exhibit help seeking behaviors for mental health concerns than younger participants. Self-stigma, alone, significantly and negatively predicted help seeking behaviors. Finally, self-stigma moderated the relationship between social support from family and depressive symptoms. One important implication of this study is in its potential to validate the use of mental health screening in schools and the unique role the school psychologist may play in encouraging the use of similar detection methods to efficiently and reliably identify at risk youth. Secondly, the relevance of stigma and its impact on help seeking behavior is an important finding vis-à-vis the importance placed on familial networks in this community. Finally, this study underscores the necessity for improved education surrounding course, prevalence and sequelae of mental health in the JOC.

Subject Area

Mental health|Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Grunberger, Avraham, "Environmental Factors Contributing to Depressive Symptomatology Among Adolescents in the Jewish Orthodox Community: A Study of Context" (2011). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3496860.



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