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First-episode major depressive and dysthymic disorder in childhood: clinical and sociodemographic factors in recovery.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, PA, USA.



To characterize the temporal pattern of depressive disorder in childhood, the first episode of depression was examined, focusing on recovery and its baseline predictors.


The sample includes 112 clinically referred 8- to 13-year-olds with first-episode major depressive or dysthymic disorder participating in a naturalistic follow-up study. Psychiatric diagnoses were based on standardized interviews and operational criteria. Recovery was modeled by multivariate procedures using baseline clinical and demographic predictors.


Recovery rates were 86% and 7% for major depression and dysthymia, respectively, 2 years after onset. Median duration of major depression was 9 months and was predicted only by underlying dysthymia. Median duration of dysthymic disorder was 3.9 years and was predicted only by comorbid externalizing disorder. In post hoc analyses, no positive treatment effects were detected.


First-episode depression in youths is persistent, it generally appears to run its own course, and its naturalistic treatment requires scrutiny. However, because comorbid externalizing disorder apparently affects duration of dysthymia, intervention for behavior problems may shorten this type of depression.

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