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J Affect Disord. 2007 Jun;100(1-3):91-101. Epub 2006 Nov 20.

Early developmental characteristics and features of major depressive disorder among child psychiatric patients in Hungary.

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Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Szeged, Szeged, Hungary.



We investigate the relations of early atypical characteristics (perinatal problems, developmental delay, and difficult temperament) and onset-age (as well as severity of) first major depressive disorder (MDD) and first internalizing disorder in a clinical sample of depressed children in Hungary.


Participants were 371 children (ages 7-14) with MDD, and their biological mothers, recruited through multiple clinical sites. Diagnoses (via DSM-IV criteria) and onset dates of disorders were finalized "best estimate" psychiatrists, and based on multiple information sources. Mothers provided developmental data in a structured interview.


Difficult temperament predicted earlier onset of MDD and first internalizing disorder, but its effect was ameliorated if the family was intact during early childhood. Further, the importance of difficult temperament decreased as a function of time. Perinatal problems and developmental delay did not impact onset ages of disorders, and none of the early childhood characteristics associated with MDD episode severity.


Children with MDD may have added disadvantage of earlier onset if they had a difficult temperament in infancy. Because early temperament mirrors physiological reactivity and regulatory capacity, it can affect various areas of functioning related to psychopathology. Early caregiver stability may attenuate some adverse effects of difficult infant temperament.

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