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Depression in young people: initial presentation and clinical course.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle.



This project was designed to provide prospective data on the clinical presentation and longitudinal course of depression in children and adolescents.


Children and their parent(s) completed a structured diagnostic interview (Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School Age Children) at intake, and then yearly for 3 years. Collateral data were collected on school, social, and family functioning.


Mean length of initial depressive episode was 35.6 weeks, SD of 26 weeks. Of the 65 depressed youths who completed the 3-year follow-up, 35 (54%) disclosed another episode of depression. Demographic, family-environment, and diagnostic variables were explored as predictors of characteristics of initial episode, recurrence of depression, and psychosocial competence at follow-up. Female gender and presence of a coexisting anxiety disorder were significantly related to severity of initial depression. Family environment was the only predictor significantly related to overall psychosocial competence over 3 years.


The findings confirm depression in youth as a valid clinical phenomenon, with substantial risk of recurrence. Increased levels of stress in the family environment were associated with poorer overall outcomes.

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