Wednesday, August 6th, 2014
It’s sad enough to consider the fact that very young children can suffer from depression, but a new study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry shows that there’s even more reason to be concerned about the condition.
Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis found that “preschool onset depression, a developmentally adapted form of depression arising between ages 3 and 6 … emerged as a robust predictor of major depressive disorder in later childhood.”
The study followed nearly 250 kids, starting at ages 3–5 until ages 9–12, and discovered that “depressed preschoolers were 2.5 times more likely to suffer from the condition in elementary and middle school than kids who were not depressed at very young ages,” according to a statement released by the University.
As the Journal‘s study concluded:
Study findings provide evidence that this preschool depressive syndrome is a robust risk factor for developing full criteria for major depression in later childhood, over and above other established risk factors. The results suggest that attention to preschool depression and conduct disorder in addition to maternal history of depression and exposure to trauma may be important in identifying young children at highest risk for later major depression and applying early interventions.
That’s a depressing finding, to be sure, but there is some good news, according to child psychiatrist Joan L. Luby, MD, the director of the University’s Early Emotional Development Program, who said in the statement: “…if we can identify depression early, perhaps we have a window of opportunity to treat it more effectively and potentially change the trajectory of the illness so that it is less likely to be chronic and recurring.”
Image of a sad young girl: Shutterstock
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Thursday, February 9th, 2012
Most of us think that being bullied makes children depressed, but a new study finds a different story: kids who show signs of depression are more likely to attract the wrath of bullies.
Published in the journal Child Development, the study followed 486 children through fourth, fifth, and sixth grade, monitoring the students’ depression symptoms and surveying parents, teachers, and the kids themselves to find out how well they got along with peers.
Fourth graders who showed signs of depression were more likely than their classmates to be victimized as fifth graders, and kids who were picked on in fifth grade tended to be less accepted by their peers in sixth grade.
By contrast, the researchers found little evidence that being bullied increased a child’s risk of becoming depressed in later grades.
Lead author Karen P. Kochel, Ph.D., an assistant research professor at Arizona State University, says bullies tend to seek out victims who are unlikely to fight back, and depression can make kids appear vulnerable. Depression can also leave children without the social skills they need to cope.
The CNN.com report continues:
The findings, Kochel says, drive home how important it is for parents and teachers to be aware of the signs of depression in children, arrange for treatment if needed, and help depressed children socialize and get along with their peers. The cycle of depression and victimization is likely to get worse if left unchecked, since depressive symptoms tend to intensify during the teen years, she says.
You can find more on depression symptoms in children here.
Image: Upset boy with backpack via Shutterstock.
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Monday, November 7th, 2011
A study that will be published in the December issue of the journal Pediatrics shows that children whose fathers show signs of depression are 70 percent more likely to develop emotional or behavioral problems themselves.
The new research builds on earlier findings that show correlation between maternal depression and child depression. This is the first major study that examines paternal depression and its effect on children.
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“For years we’ve been studying maternal depression and how it affects children, but the medical community has done a huge disservice by ignoring fathers in this research,” said the study’s lead author, Michael Weitzman, a professor of pediatric medicine at New York University, in New York. “These findings reinforce what we already assumed — that fathers matter, too, and they matter quite a lot.”
The situation is predictably worse if both parents are depressed. Just 6% of children with two mentally healthy parents have serious emotional or behavioral problems, such as feeling sad or nervous, acting out at school, or clashing with family and peers, the study found. But that proportion increases to 11% if the father is depressed, 19% if the mother is depressed and 25% if both parents are depressed — a strikingly high number, Weitzman says.
Although the study doesn’t prove that a parent’s depression directly causes problems in children, rather than vice versa, previous research on mothers and children has clearly shown that it’s generally mothers who influence kids’ mental health, not the other way around.