Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Depression Contagion: Parents Can Affect Children

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Depression Contagion: Parents Can Affect Children

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- The role of parental depression is not a consistent, equivalent risk factor for youth depression, Benjamin L. Hankin, Ph.D., said at the annual meeting of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies.

Parental depression can affect children in two main ways, Dr. Hankin noted. First, children can be exposed to such high levels of stress as a result of parental depression that the children's normal coping skills are unable to handle the initial stress and the children therefore develop depressive symptoms when confronted with additional outside stressors.

Second, depressed parents model poor skills for coping with stress, which leaves the child susceptible to depressive symptoms in the face of additional stress.

The extent to which parental depression is a risk factor for youth depression depends on the contextual domain of the stressor, said Dr. Hankin of the University of South Carolina, Columbia.

Dr. Hankin and his associates conducted a longitudinal study that included 421 8th and 10th grade students from 18 suburban high schools in Chicago. About 55% were female and 87% were white. The youth were evaluated at baseline, 6 months, and 12 months.

The results were based on reports from both the parents and the youths. The data included self-report questionnaires and a 7-day reporting of events at each of the three measurement times using a daily diary in which the youth recorded the worst events of each day. Entries ranged from dropping books in the hallway and receiving poor test grades to fighting with a girlfriend or being kicked out of school. …

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