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Depress Anxiety. 2008;25(5):379-82.

Does major depressive disorder in parents predict specific fears and phobias in offspring?

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Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, NYU Child Study Center, NYU School of Medicine, New York University, New York, USA.


Evidence suggests a relationship between parental depression and phobias in offspring as well as links between childhood fears and risk for major depression. This study examines the relationship between major depressive disorder (MDD) and anxiety disorders in parents and specific fears and phobias in offspring. Three hundred and eighteen children of parents with lifetime MDD, anxiety disorder, MDD+anxiety disorder, or neither were psychiatrically assessed via parent interview. Rates of specific phobias in offspring did not differ significantly across parental groups. Specific fears were significantly elevated in offspring of parents with MDD+anxiety disorder relative to the other groups (MDD, anxiety disorder, and controls, which did not differ). We failed to find increased phobias in offspring of parents with MDD without anxiety disorder. Elevated rates of specific fears in offspring of parents with MDD+anxiety disorder may be a function of more severe parental psychopathology, increased genetic loading, or unmeasured environmental influences.

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