To prospectively examine the relation between pubertal stage and the onset and course of depressive symptoms.The design was a three-wave longitudinal study of health and social development using statewide community samples in Washington, United States, and Victoria, Australia. Approximately 5,769 students initially ages 10 to 15 years were assessed for depressive symptoms with the Short Mood and Feelings Questionnaire. Pubertal status was assessed using a self-report version of the Pubertal Development Scale.Advancing pubertal stage carried higher risks for depressive symptoms in female subjects in all of the three study waves. The pubertal rise in female depressive symptoms was due to both higher risk for incident cases and an even greater effect on risks for persistence of depressive symptoms. Report of poor emotional control 12 months earlier carried a twofold higher risk for incident depressive symptoms and largely explained the pubertal rise in female incident cases. High family conflict and severity of bullying also predicted persistence of depressive symptoms. Preexisting depressive symptoms were not associated with later increases in the rate of pubertal transition.Advancing pubertal stage carries risks for both the onset and persistence of depressive symptoms in females. Social adversity around puberty predicts the persistence of symptoms but does not account for a pubertal rise in female depression. A report of poor emotional control may be a useful marker of girls at risk for depressive symptoms and as a target for preventive intervention.