• Karin Meyer Stellenbosch University
  • Lou-Marie Kruger University of Stellenbosch


Informed by the feminist social constructionist approach this study aimed at exploring the subjective experiences of depression of low-income South African adolescent girls. Participants in this study (girls between the ages of 12 and 14) live in a semi-rural low-income coloured community in the Western Cape. Participants were familiar with the concept of depression, but it seemed that for them the central emotion associated with depression was anger, which often manifested in destructive behaviours. Furthermore, participants seemed to construct depression as a relational problem, suggesting that psychotherapy may be indicated as an important intervention strategy.

Author Biographies

Karin Meyer, Stellenbosch University
Postgraduate Student; Department of Psychology, University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Lou-Marie Kruger, University of Stellenbosch
 Prof Lou-Marie Kruger, Department of Psychology, University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa


ABI-HABIB, R. & LUYTEN, P. 2013. The role of dependency and self-criticism in the relationship between anger and depression. Personality and Individual Differences, 55(8):921–925.

ACCORTT, E.E., FREEMAN, M.P. & ALLEN, J.J.B. 2008. Women and major depressive disorder: Clinical perspectives on causal pathways. Journal of Women’s Health, 17(10):1583–1590.

AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC ASSOCIATION. 2013. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

AVENEVOLI, S., KNIGHT, E., KESSLER, R.C. & MERIKANGAS, K.R. 2008. Epidemiology of depression in children and adolescents. In: ABELA, J.R.Z. & HANKIN, B.L. (eds) Handbook of depression in children and adolescents. New York: Guilford Press.

BABBIE, E. 2013. The practice of social research (13th ed). Toronto: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

BECK, A.T. & ALFORD, B.A. 2009. Depression: Causes and treatment (2nd ed). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

BLESS, C., HIGSON-SMITH, C. & SITHOLE, S.L. 2013. Fundamentals of social research methods: an African perspective (5th ed). Cape Town: Juta and Company.

BRENT, D., MELHEM, N., DONOHOE, M.B. & WALKER, M. 2009. The incidence and course of depression in bereaved youth 21 months after the loss of a parent to suicide, accident, or sudden natural death. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 166(7):786-794.

BROOKS-RUSSELL, A., SIMONS-MORTON, B., HAYNIE, D., FARHAT, T. & WANG, J. 2014. Longitudinal relationship between drinking with peers, descriptive norms, and adolescent alcohol use. Prevention Science, 15(4):497-505.

BROWN, J.D. 2014. The self. London: Psychology Press.

BURKE, L. 2003. The impact of maternal depression on familial relationships. International Review of Psychiatry, 15(3):243-255.

CAREY, R.N., DONAGHUE, N. & BRODERICK, P. 2013. Peer culture and body image concern among Australian adolescent girls: A hierarchical linear modelling analysis. Sex Roles, 69(5-6):250-263.

CHARMAZ, K. 1995. Grounded theory. In: SMITH, J.A., HARRE, R. & VAN LANGENHOVEN, L. (eds) Rethinking methods in psychology. London: Sage Publications.

CHARMAZ, K. 2008. Grounded theory. In: SMITH, J.A. (ed) Qualitative psychology: A practical guide to research methods. London: Sage Publications.

CHARMAZ, K. 2014. Constructing grounded theory (2nd ed). London: Sage Publications.

CHOUKAS-BRADLEY, S. & PRINSTEIN, M.J. 2014. Peer relationships and the development of psychopathology. In: LEWIS, M. & RUDOLPH, K.D. (eds) Handbook of developmental psychopathology. New York: Springer.

COYNE, L.W. & THOMPSON, A.D. 2011. Maternal depression, locus of control, and emotion regulatory strategy as predictors of preschoolers’ internalizing problems. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 20(6):873-883.

DE VOS, A.S., STRYDOM, H., FOUCHÉ, C.B. & DELPORT, C.S.L. 2011. Research at grass roots: for the social sciences and human service professions (4th ed). Pretoria: Van Schaik Publishers.

DUKAS, C.J. 2014. A feminist phenomenological description of depression in low-income South African women. Stellenbosch: University of Stellenbosch. (D Thesis)

FAN, Q. & JI, J.L. 2004. Depression in women. Foreign Medical Sciences Section of Maternal and Child Health, 2004(3):154-156.

FIVUSH, R. & BUCKNER, J.P. 2000. Gendered themes in family reminiscing. Memory, 8(6):401-412.

FLEMING, K. & KRUGER, L. 2014. ‘She keeps his secrets’: a gendered analysis of the impact of shame on the non-disclosure of sexual violence in one low-income South African community. African Safety Promotion: A Journal of Injury and Violence Prevention, 11(2):107-124.

FLYKT, M., KANNINEN, K., SINKKONEN, J. & PUNNAMÄKI, R. 2010. Maternal depression and dyadic interaction: The role of maternal attachment style. Infant and Child Development, 19(5):530-550.

FOCHT-BIRKERTS, L. & BEARDSLEE, R.B. 2000. A child’s experience of parental depression: Encouraging relational resilience in families with affective illness. Family Process, 39(4):417-434.

GASK, L., ASEEM, S., WAQUAS, A. & WAHEED, W. 2011. Isolation, feeling ‘stuck’ and loss of control: Understanding persistence of depression in British Pakistani women. Journal of Affective Disorders, 128(1-2):49-55.

GOODMAN, S.H. 2007. Depression in mothers. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 3:107-135.

GOODWIN, M.E. 2008. Gender role conflict, depression, and personality’s effect on help-seeking behaviors, attitudes, and academic performance. Ames: Iowa State University. (D Thesis)

HAMMAN, C. & KRUGER, L. (In press). Girls’ gossip: The subjective experience of gossip of a group of early adolescent girls from a low-income community in South Africa.

HERRES, J. & KOBAK, R. 2015. The role of parent, teacher, and peer events in maintaining depressive symptoms during early adolescence. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 43(2):325-337.

HOLT, S., BUCKLEY, H. & WHELAN, S. 2008. The impact of exposure to domestic violence on children and young people: A review of the literature. Child: Care, Health and Development, 34(6):840-841.

JEWKES, R., GEVERS, A., CUPP, P., MATHEWS, C., RUSSELL, M., LEFLEUR-BELLEROSE, C. & FLISHER, A. 2011. Respect4U. Cape Town: Medical Research Council.

KOHL, P.L., KAGOTHO, J.N. & DIXON, D. 2011. Parenting practices among depressed mothers in the child welfare system. Social Work Research, 35(4):215-225.

KRUGER, L. 2014. The whales beneath the surface: The muddled story of doing research with poor mothers in a developing country. Health Care for Women International, 35(7-9):1010-1021.

KRUGER, L. (In press). Marginal maternities: Notebook of a psycho-ethnographer.

KRUGER, L., VAN STRAATEN, K., TAYLOR, L., LOURENS, M. & DUKAS, C. 2014. The melancholy of murderous mothers: depression and the medicalization of women’s anger. Feminism & Psychology, 24(4):461-478.

KRUSE, J.A. 2012. Considering a relational model for depression in women. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan. (D Thesis)

KRUSE, J.A., WILLIAMS, R.A. & SENG, J.S. 2014. Considering a relational model for depression in women with postpartum depression. International Journal of Childbirth, 4(3):151-168.

LOURENS, M. 2014. Depressed women’s emotional experiences of the mother-child relationship: perspectives from a low-income South African community. Stellenbosch: University of Stellenbosch. (M Thesis)

LOURENS, M. & KRUGER, L. 2013. Die subjektiewe ervaring van depressie onder Suid-Afrikaanse vroue in ’n lae-inkomste gemeenskap. Social Work/Maatskaplike Werk, 49(2):248-270.

LUND, T., CHAN, P. & LIANG, B. 2014. Depression and relational health in Asian American and European American college women. Psychology in the Schools, 51:493-505.

MASH, E.J. & WOLFE, D.A. 2013. Abnormal child psychology (5th ed). Toronto: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

MILES, J. & GILBERT, P. 2005. A handbook of research methods for clinical & health psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

MIROWSKY, J. & ROSS, C.E. 2003. Social causes of psychological distress (2nd ed). Hawthorne: Transaction Publishers.

MRUG, S., ELLIOTT, M.N., DAVIES, S., TORTOLERO, S.R., CUCCARO, P. & SCHUSTER, M.A. 2014. Early puberty, negative peer influence, and problem behaviours in adolescent girls. Pediatrics, 133(1):7-14.

NESI, J. & PRINSTEIN, M.J. 2015. Using social media for social comparison and feedback-seeking: Gender and popularity moderate associations with depressive symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 2015:1-12.

NOBLE, R.E. 2005. Depression in women [Supplemental material]. Metabolism, 54(5):49-52.

NUMMENMAA, L., GLEREAN, E., HARI, R. & HIETANEN, J.K. 2013. Bodily maps of emotions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111(2):646-651.

OLINO, T.M., STEPP, S.D., KEENAN, K., LOEBER, R. & HIPWELL, A. 2013. Trajectories of depression and anxiety symptoms in adolescent girls: A comparison of parallel trajectory approaches. Journal of Personality Assessment, 0022(3891):1-11.

PENNEBAKER, J. W., ZECH, E. & RIMÉ, E. Z. 2001. Disclosing and sharing emotion: Psychologial, social and health consequences. In: STROEBE, M.S., STROEBE, W., HANSSON, R.O. & SCHUT, H. (eds) Handbook of bereavement research: consequences, coping, and care. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

POTTER, J. 1996. Discourse analysis and constructionist approaches: Theoretical background. In: RICHARDSON, J.T.E. (ed) Handbook of qualitative research methods for psychology and the social sciences. Malden: BPS Blackwell Publishing.

RAYNER, K.E., SCHNIERING, C.A., RAPEE, R.M., TAYLOR, A. & HUTCHINSON, D.M. 2014. Adolescent girls’ friendship networks, body dissatisfaction, and disordered eating: Examining selection and socialization processes. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 122(1):93-104.

RILEY, M., WOOD, R.C., CLARK, M.A., WILKIE, E. & SZIVAS, E. 2000. Researching and writing dissertations in business and management. London: Thomson Learning.

RISHEL, C.W. 2012. Pathways to prevention for children of depressed mothers: a review of the literature and recommendations for practice. Depression Research and Treatment, 2012:1-11.

RODGERS, R.F., McLEAN, S.A. & PAXTON, S. J. 2015. Longitudinal relationships among internalization of the media ideal, peer social comparison, and body dissatisfaction: Implications for the tripartite influence model. Developmental Psychology, 51(5):706-713.

ROSE, T., JOE, S. & LINDSEY, M. 2011. Perceived stigma and depression among black adolescents in outpatient treatment. Children and Youth Services Review, 33(1):161-166.

SIDES-MOORE, L. & TOCHKOV, K. 2011. The thinner the better? Competitiveness, depression and body image among college student women. College Student Journal, 45(2):439-448.

SILK, J.S., SHAW, D.S., PROUT, J.T., O’ROURKE, F., LANE, T.J. & KOVACS, M. 2011. Socialization of emotion and offspring internalizing symptoms in mothers with childhood-onset depression. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 32(3):127-136.

SIMON, R.W. & LIVELY, K.J. 2010. Sex, anger and depression. Social Forces, 88(4):1543-1568.

SMITH, M., VAN WYK, S. & ALKANA, L. 2013. Adolescent girls’ experience of termination in a community-based intervention. The Social Work Practitioner-Researcher, 25:120-135.

SWARTZ, L., GIBSON, K. & GELMAN, T. 2002. Reflective practice: Psychodynamic ideas in the community. Cape Town: Human Sciences Research Council.

THAPAR, A., COLLISHAW, S., PINE, D.S. & THAPAR, A.K. 2012. Depression in adolescence. The Lancet, 379(9820):1056-1067.

TURNEY, K. 2012. Pathways of disadvantage: Explaining the relationship between maternal depression and children’s problem behaviors. Social Science Research, 41(6):1546-1564.

ULRICH, Y.C., CAIN, K.C., SUGG, N.K., RIVARA, F.P., RUBANOWICE, D.M. & THOMPSON, R.S. 2003. Medical care utilization patterns in women with diagnosed domestic violence. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 24(1):9-15.

VLIEGEN, N. & LUYTEN, P. 2008. The role of dependency and self-criticism in the relationship between postpartum depression and anger. Personality and Individual Differences, 45(1):34-40.

WALBY, S. 2004. The real cost of domestic violence. Safe – The Domestic Abuse Quarterly, 2004:15-18.

WALLER, J.M., SILK, J.S., STONE, L.B. & DAHL, R.E. 2014. Co-rumination and co-problem solving in the daily lives of adolescents with Major Depressive Disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 53(8):869-878.

WATSON, K.H., POTTS, J., HARDCASTLE, E., FOREHAND, R. & COMPAS, B.E. 2012. Internalizing and externalizing symptoms in sons and daughters of mothers with a history of depression. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 21(4):657-666.

WAY, N. 1998. Using feminist research methods to understand the friendships of adolescent boys. Journal of Social Issues, 53:703-725.

WESTERN, D. 2013. Gender-based violence and depression in women: A feminist group work response. New York: Springer.

YALOM, I.D. & LESZCZ, M. 2005. The theory and practice of group psychotherapy (5th ed). New York: Basic Books.

YARDLEY, L. 2008. Demonstrating validity in qualitative psychology. In: SMITH, J. A. (ed) Qualitative psychology: A practical guide to research methods. London: Sage Publications.