Depression in Children

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Understanding Depression Slideshow

Quick GuideDepression Hurts: Physical Symptoms of Depression

Depression Hurts: Physical Symptoms of Depression

What are complications of depression in children?

Depression during childhood puts sufferers at risk for developing a number of other mental-health issues. Children with depression are also more likely to have poor academic performance and to engage in alcohol and other drug abuse. As adults, people who had depression during childhood and adolescence are at risk for having trouble maintaining employment, as well as family and other social disruptions during adulthood.

What is the prognosis for depression in children?

Depression can be chronic, in that 85% of people who have one episode of the disorder will have another one within 15 years of the first episode. Children with depression are more likely to develop severe mental illness during adulthood compared to children who do not suffer from depression. Depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States for people over 5 years of age. Childhood depression is a risk factor for a number of potentially negative outcomes, like academic and interpersonal problems, as well as issues with drugs, and attempting suicide.

Is it possible to prevent depression in children?

Preventing depression in childhood tends to involve addressing both specific and nonspecific risk factors, strengthening protective factors, and using an appropriate approach for the teen's developmental level. Such programs often use cognitive behavioral and/or interpersonal approaches, as well as family based prevention strategies because research shows that these interventions are the most effective.

Protective factors for adolescent depression include involving supportive adults, strong family and peer relationships, healthy coping skills, and emotional regulation. Children of a depressed parent tend to be more resilient when the child is more able to focus on age-appropriate tasks in their lives and on their relationships, as well as being able to understand their parents' condition. For depressed parents, their children seem to be less likely to develop the disorder when the parent is able to demonstrate a commitment to parenting and to relationships.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/18/2015

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