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Clinical presentation and course of depression in youth: does onset in childhood differ from onset in adolescence?

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University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, Pittsburgh, Pa 15213, USA.



To simultaneously and prospectively compare the clinical presentation, course, and parental psychiatric history between children and adolescents with major depressive disorder.


A group of prepubertal children (n = 46) and postpubertal adolescents (n = 22) were assessed with structured interviews for psychopathology and parental psychiatric history and followed once every 2 years for approximately 5 years.


With the exception of more depressive melancholic symptoms in the adolescents, both groups had similar depressive symptomatology, duration (average 17 months), severity of the index episode, rates of recovery (85%) and recurrence (40%), comorbid disorders, and parental psychiatric history. Female sex, increased guilt, prior episodes of depression, and parental psychopathology were associated with worse longitudinal course.


In general, major depressive disorder is manifested similarly in children and adolescents, and both groups have a protracted clinical course and high family loading for psychiatric disorders.

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