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J Nerv Ment Dis. 2010 May;198(5):356-61. doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e3181da8514.

Intergenerational transmission of psychopathology: minor versus major parental depression.

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Department of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


This study used data from the National Comorbidity Survey to investigate associations between: (1) maternal and paternal depression and young adult offspring psychopathology, and (2) major and minor parental depression and offspring psychopathology. Offspring of a depressed parent were significantly more likely to experience a psychiatric disorder by young adulthood than offspring of nondepressed parents. Major and minor maternal and paternal depression were associated with comparable increases in risk for offspring 12-month mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders and lifetime substance use disorder. However, maternal major depression was associated with a greater risk for offspring lifetime mood and anxiety disorder than maternal minor depression. Risk for lifetime mood and anxiety disorder did not differ by severity of paternal depression. These findings suggest that parental depressive symptoms that do not meet major depressive disorder criteria may nevertheless have significant adverse associations with offspring mental health.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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