Many are concerned that preadolescents with depressive disorders may be under-diagnosed and go untreated. This occurs because those presenting for outpatient treatment with clinically significant depressive symptoms often do not meet full diagnostic criteria for Major Depressive Disorder (MDD).
However, preadolescents with depressive symptoms are at increased risk of experiencing MDD in adolescence.
For the study, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine randomly assigned 42 preadolescents (ages seven to 12) with depression to one of two therapy conditions.
The research is important because a “best practice” method of care for preadolescences diagnosed with depression has not been determined.
Researchers compared FB-IPT, an intervention that included parents in the child’s treatment and focused on improving family and peer relationships, to child-centered therapy (CCT), a supportive therapy for children.
Depressive symptoms in children were measured by a clinician-rated children’s depression rating scale, and mood questionnaires that both the child and parent completed.
Preadolescents receiving FB-IPT had higher rates of remission (66 percent vs. 31 percent), a greater decrease in depressive symptoms from pre- to post-treatment, and lower depressive symptoms at post-treatment than did preadolescents with depression receiving CCT.
Children receiving FB-IPT also reported significant reductions in anxiety symptoms than did preadolescents in the CCT group.
In addition, the study demonstrated that FB-IPT helped to reduce social impairment in depressed preadolescents, and these changes were associated with decreases in their depressive symptoms.
“These findings provide strong support for Family Based Interpersonal Psychotherapy as an effective treatment for depression in children between the ages of seven to 12,” said Laura J. Dietz, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and principal investigator of the study.
“It also highlights the importance of early intervention for depressed preadolescents who are at risk for depression as teenagers.”
The study is ublished in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.