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Volume 23 Issue 1 (January 2020), Pages

Water contaminant levels interact with parenting environment to predict development of depressive symptoms in adolescents

Abstract Contaminants in drinking water, such as lead, nitrate, and arsenic, have been linked to negative physical health outcomes. We know less, however, about whether such pollutants also predict mental health problems and, if so, the conditions under which such effects are strongest. In this longitudinal study, we examined whether drinking water contaminants interact with negative family environments (parental psychological control) to predict changes in depressive symptoms in 110 adolescents—a developmental period when symptoms often first emerge. We found that for adolescents in psychologically controlling families, levels of drinking water contaminants prospectively predicted depressive symptoms 2 years later; this effect was not present in adolescents in non‐controlling families. Importantly, these associations were not accounted for by family‐ or community‐level socioeconomic resources, demographic features, or by the adolescents’ stress exposure. These findings highlight the interplay of physical and psychological environments in influencing depressive symptoms in adolescents. A video abstract of this article can be viewed at

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