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Depression affects over 17 million American adults yearly and has been identified as the leading cause of disability in people between the ages of 15 and 44 years. There is evidence that feeling neglect or a lack of parental attachment during childhood is associated with depression. One construct that has been overlooked is love from a parent. The purpose of this study was to analyze the association between individuals who felt not wanted/loved during adolescence and lifetime depression and to examine this association by gender. We examined 5114 participants aged 24–32 years at Wave IV of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) public use dataset. We used logistic regression analysis to determine the association between an individual feeling not wanted/loved by their parent/caregiver prior to age 18, covariates, and lifetime depression. We then stratified by gender and ran logistic models for both men and women separately. Overall, 16.2% (n = 827) reported lifetime depression diagnosis, while 16.5% of the participants reported feeling not wanted/loved “often,” while 29.8% reported it as “sometimes.” Feeling not wanted/loved “often” was associated with higher odds of depression (AOR = 3.00; 95% CI, 2.45–3.66; p < .001) versus “sometimes” (AOR = 1.59; 95% CI, 1.31–1.90; p < .001). When stratified by gender, feeling not loved/wanted was associated with depression among both men (AOR = 3.70; 95% CI, 2.60–5.25; p < .001) and women (AOR = 2.73; 95% CI, 2.13–3.48; p < .001). Feeling not loved or wanted by a parent/caregiver during adolescence has serious implications, for both men and women. Future studies should further examine this construct and identify family-based interventions that focus on parent/caregiver and child relationships.

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© The Author(s) 2021. Under SAGE's Green Open Access policy, the Accepted Version of the article may be posted in the author's institutional repository and reuse is restricted to non-commercial and no derivative uses. This article originally appeared in the journal Psychological Reports.