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J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2004 Mar;43(3):298-306.

Parental familial vulnerability, family environment, and their interactions as predictors of depressive symptoms in adolescents.

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  • 1Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, UK.



Familial risk for depression results from both biological and social influences. These may also be associated with other characteristics, including alcohol use, smoking, and body mass index (BMI), and with environmental risks such as social problems, life events, and educational level, all of which may be associated with depression in offspring. The authors examined the links between (1) parental familial vulnerability to depression and (2) the role of associated parental characteristics on severe adolescent depressive symptoms. Third, the authors explored the influence of family environment variables. Fourth, the authors sought interactions between parental familial vulnerability and family environment.


Questionnaires were obtained from 1,294 parents of 1,818 adolescent offspring.


The odds of severe adolescent depressive symptoms increased by a factor of 1.5 per standard deviation increase in parental familial vulnerability to depression (odds ratio [OR] = 1.50). Parental BMI (OR = 1.05) and educational level (OR = 2.60) had significant influences independent of parental vulnerability. Analyses indicated a significant interaction such that those with high parental familial vulnerability, whose parents also had no qualifications, had a threefold risk of severe depressive symptoms.


Adolescents with a family history of depression whose parents also lack qualifications may be a target for intervention.

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