A new study has found that depression and anger as a teen can have a lasting effect on romantic relationships well into middle age.
“We assume or hope that high school experiences fade away and don’t necessarily resonate 25 years later,” said Matthew Johnson, Ph.D., an assistant professor of human ecology at the University of Alberta in Canada.
“The fact that symptoms of depression and expressions of anger can endure over many large events in life shows how important it is to deal with mental health early. Sometimes, problems don’t just dissipate. How you grow and change over those early years becomes crucial to future happiness.”
The study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, followed 341 people for 25 years. Drawn from a larger study begun in 1985, this study surveyed 178 women and 163 men through their transition to adulthood from age 18 to 25. The participants were surveyed again on their perceived stress levels at the age of 32 and then on the quality of their intimate relationships at age 43, the researcher said.
The idea was to determine if anger or depression they may have felt as young adults was still affecting those bonds, he explained.
The study’s findings highlight the importance of recognizing that early mental health does influence intimate relationships and that, in turn, can have social costs later on, such as divorce and domestic violence, according to the researcher.
People can help themselves by “recognizing the fact that where they are in their couple relationship now is likely shaped by earlier chapters in their lives,” Johnson concluded.
“It’s not only your partner’s current behavior or your current behavior shaping your relationship, but the story you bring with you.”
Source: University of Alberta
This article first appeared on Psych Central on 8 May, 2014.