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General and specific childhood risk factors for depression and drug disorders by early adulthood.

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  • 1Simmons College School of Social Work, Boston, MA 02116, USA.



To identify childhood risk factors that predict depression and drug disorders by early adulthood, distinguishing between general risk factors for both disorders and specific risk factors for each individual disorder.


Within a longitudinal community study (N = 360), familial and behavioral-emotional characteristics were assessed in early childhood (ages 5, 6, and 9 years). At age 21, the Diagnostic Interview Schedule, version III-revised, provided lifetime diagnoses of major depression and drug abuse/dependence.


Sibling substance use disorders predicted depression and drug disorders for both genders. Feelings of anxiety, depression, and peer rejection were general predictors for females. Specific risk factors for depression were parental depression and anxious/depressed behavior in both genders and peer problems for males. Specific risk factors for drug abuse/dependence were larger family size, lower socioeconomic status, hyperactivity, attention problems, and aggression. Parental substance abuse and having younger parents were specific risk factors for drug disorders in males.


Familial and behavioral-emotional risk factors for depression and drug disorders were primarily specific, suggesting separate pathways. The unique perspectives of multiple informants facilitate early identification.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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