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87. Do Attentional Abilities Mediate the Relation Between Pubertal Timing and Depressive Symptoms?
Pubertal development, particularly early pubertal timing, may contribute to a mismatch between emotional reactivity and cognitive control in adolescence. Cognitive impairments (e.g., poor attention) are a characteristic of Major Depressive Disorder. Thus, changes to attentional abilities may mediate the relation between early pubertal timing and depressive symptoms. Adolescents (N=321) were assessed annually (T1, T2, T3). Pubertal timing (Pubertal Development Scale) was assessed at T1; selective, sustained, and switching attention (Test of Everyday Attention for Children) was measured at T2; depressive symptoms (CDI) were measured at T3. Moderated mediation models examined whether attention at T2 mediated the relation between pubertal timing at T1 and depressive symptoms at T3 and whether sex moderated this relation. Attentional switching at T2 significantly mediated the association between pubertal timing at T1 and depressive symptoms at T3 for girls only, such that earlier T1 pubertal timing predicted poorer T2 attention, which predicted higher T3 depressive symptoms (Moderated Mediation: 95% CI=0.01, 0.16; Boys: 95% CI=-0.06, 0.01; Girls: 95% CI=0.01, 0.16). Attentional switching is one potential mechanism by which the gender gap in depression emerges after puberty. These findings highlight a target for prevention and intervention efforts for girls at risk for depression during the pubertal transition.