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J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol. 2001 Winter;11(4):395-407.

Methodological complexities in the diagnosis of major depression in youth: an analysis of mother and youth self-reports.

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  • 1Pediatric Psychopharmacology Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114, USA. biederman@helix.mgh.harvard.edu



Considering the well-documented low level of agreement between youth and parent reports on the diagnosis of major depressive disorder (MDD), uncertainties remain as to the informativeness of discrepant youth and parent reports in clinical studies. To this end we evaluated whether morbidity and functional correlates on the diagnosis of MDD in youth vary by informant source.


The sample consisted of 186 pairs of independently assessed mother and youth self-reports on the diagnosis of MDD using structured diagnostic interviews ascertained in a large study of youth with and without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder of both genders. Subjects were also assessed on measures of interpersonal, school, and family functioning as well as prior treatment history.


The diagnosis of MDD endorsed by youth self-report only when compared with that reported by the mother was characterized by significantly: shorter duration episode, later age at onset, milder depression-associated impairment, less impairment in interpersonal functioning, lower rates of comorbid disorders, and decreased likelihood to receive any course of treatment for depression. The morbidity and dysfunction associated with MDD varied significantly by informant source, and followed a dose-response association with the highest morbidity associated with the concurrent reports of the youth and the mothers, followed by mother report alone, with the least morbidity and dysfunction when endorsed by youth alone.


These findings suggest that exclusive reliance on youth self-reports may identify a mild form of depression associated with limited morbidity and disability compared with that identified by parental reports.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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