A new study suggests that preschool depression is a real disorder amongst some children.
The researchers also found that preschoolers with depression had a 4 times greater likelihood of major depressive disorder — but not any other type of psychiatric condition — one or two years later than preschoolers who didn’t have depression.
“Our study is the first available, to our knowledge, to follow-up and describe the 2-year course of preschool major depressive disorder in a large systematically assessed sample,” noted Joan Luby, M.D. and her colleagues at the Washington University School of Medicine.
The research, conducted at the Early Emotional Development Program in St Louis, Missouri from 2003 to 2005, examined the mental health and well-being of 306 preschoolers aged 3 to 5 years old.
After controlling for other factors, the researchers found that preschool depression and a family history of mood disorders like depression were the most reliable predictors of later major depressive disorder in the children.
The study found that 57 percent of preschoolers with depression had an episode at two or more followup sessions, and 18 percent had a chronic course of depression throughout the 2-year study period.
“These findings add to the growing database validating preschool major depressive disorder and distinguishing it from other early onset disorders,” said the researchers.
The more severe the depression when the child was first measured predicted the greates likelihood of the child experiencing a chronic course of major depression at the 2-year followup.
The researchers also refuted the claim that preschool depression may be a predictor of other future types of psychiatric concerns, finding no such relationship.
This investigation used data from a National Institute of Mental Health–funded Validation of Preschool Depression Study. The Preschool Depression Study is an ongoing, multi-method, multi-informant (parents, children, and teachers), longitudinal investigation of 306 preschoolers. Comprehensive assessments were conducted at 3 annual waves in the Early Emotional Development Program at the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, St Louis, Missouri. Children were recruited from pediatricians’ offices, daycare centers, and preschools in the St Louis metropolitan area using the Preschool Feelings Checklist.
Treatment options for preschool depression remain limited.
“Despite some promising findings, safe and effective treatments for school-age major depressive disorder (MDD) remain largely elusive,” claimed the researchers.
“Study findings underscore the clinical and public health importance of identification and treat-
ment of MDD as early as the preschool period. Study findings also suggest that further investigation of this understudied early childhood disorder is warranted.”
The research was published in the August issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry. The authors reported no financial conflicts of interest.
Source: Archives of General Psychiatry