Parental Depressive Symptoms as a Predictor of Outcome in the Treatment of Child Depression
Child depression is an impairing condition for which psychotherapies have shown modest effects. Parental depression is a risk factor for development of child depression and might also be negatively associated with child depression treatment outcomes. To explore this possibility, we analyzed data from a study in which children were treated for depression after parental depressive symptoms had been assessed at baseline. Among children treated for depression in a randomized controlled trial, we identified 31 who had child- and parent-report pre- and post-treatment data on child symptoms and parent-report of pre-treatment parental depressive symptoms. Children were aged 8–13, 77% boys, and 52% Caucasian, 13% African-American, 6% Latino, and 29% multi-racial. Analyses focused on differences in trajectories of change (across weekly measurements), and post-treatment symptoms among children whose parents did (n = 12) versus did not (n = 19) have elevated depressive symptoms at baseline. Growth curve analyses showed markedly different trajectories of change for the two groups, by both child-report (p = 0.03) and parent-report (p = 0.03) measures: children of parents with less severe depression showed steep symptom declines, but children of parents with more severe depression showed flat trajectories with little change in symptoms over time. ANCOVAs showed lower post-treatment child symptoms for children of parents with less severe depression versus parents with more severe depression (p = 0.05 by child report, p = 0.01 by parent report). Parental depressive symptoms predict child symptom trajectories and poorer child treatment response, and may need to be addressed in treatment.
KeywordsChildren Depression Parent depression Internalizing symptoms Psychotherapy
This research was supported by grant K23MH093491 (D. Eckshtain, P.I.) from the National Institute of Mental Health, and the parent study was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Norlien Foundation.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
John Weisz receives royalties for some of the work cited in this paper, including the MATCH-ADTC treatment manual used in the study.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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