Are relationships between impulsivity and depressive symptoms in adolescents sex-dependent? Academic Article uri icon


  • Introduction: Both depressive symptomology and impulsivity are common during adolescence and are associated with various negative life outcomes. The potential sex-dependent nature of relationships between these constructs needs further exploration in order to understand their complexities. This cross-sectional study examined how levels of these constructs may differ by sex. Additionally, we investigated whether sex moderates relationships between adolescents' depression symptoms and different facets of impulsivity. Methods: 156 adolescents (M age = 17.37, SD = 1.91, 59% female) completed self-report measures of their demographics, depression symptoms, and impulsivity. Multiple Analysis of Covariance (MANCOVA) assessed mean differences in depression symptoms and impulsivity by sex and race/ethnicity. Moderation analyses examined how sex may indirectly affect relationships between depression symptoms to predict attentional, motor, and non-planning impulsivity facets, as well as overall trait impulsivity. Results: Correlations between depression symptoms and impulsivity scores were significant. Baseline depression symptoms were significantly higher among females (M = 9.53) compared to males (M = 6.68). Moderation effects of sex were not significant for attentional, motor, or overall trait impulsivity. However, sex moderated relations between depression symptoms and non-planning impulsivity, such that adolescent males showed higher levels of non-planning impulsivity when they reported high levels of depressive symptoms (B = .32, p < .01). This relationship was not significant for females. Conclusions: While adolescent females may be more prone to depression, adolescent males may be more likely to experience non-planning impulsivity when experiencing symptoms of depression. The results of this study extend the literature regarding sex differences in vulnerabilities between these constructs. We suggest interventions targeting non-planning impulsivity may be especially salient for adolescent males reporting high levels of depressive symptoms.

author list (cited authors)

  • Regan, T., Harris, B., & Fields, S. A.

publication date

  • January 1, 2019 11:11 AM