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Objective: Family studies of youth with depression are reviewed and new data presented. Past studies suggest strong familiality of youth depression. However, few studies included direct interviews with fathers and both psychiatric and normal control groups. In this study, lifetime prevalences of parental Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), Recurrent Depression, Dysthymic Disorder (DD), Double Depression (MDD/DD) and Bipolar Disorder were compared for 6-18 year old youth with depression (n = 127), youth with ADHD without a depression history (n = 116), and community control youth (n = 78).
Method: Parental diagnoses were made by diagnosticians blind to child diagnostic status using best estimate procedures based on the parent-interview SADS and the Family History Interview of Psychiatric Status from the other parent. Child diagnoses were based on K-SADS interviews conducted with both parent and child separately.
Results: Both mothers and fathers of depressed probands were significantly more likely than mothers and fathers of the other proband groups to have a history of MDD and DD. Mothers of probands with MDD/DD had higher rates of MDD compared to mothers of other depressed probands. There were few cases of parental Bipolar Disorder and most occurred in parents of probands with depression.
Conclusion: The current findings provide further evidence of the strong familiality of youth depression and highlight the need to evaluate parents when treating depressed youth. A comprehensive treatment approach may need to include a focus on obtaining treatment for and enhancing coping with parental depression.