Comparison of public attributions, attitudes, and stigma in regard to depression among children and adults

Psychiatr Serv. 2007 May;58(5):632-5. doi: 10.1176/ps.2007.58.5.632.


Objective: This study compared public attributions and attitudes toward adult and child depression, with a focus on problem recognition, medical and social causes, help-seeking recommendations, perceptions of violence, and the use of coercion.

Methods: The investigators compared data from two special modules of the 1996 and 2002 nationally representative General Social Survey on public response to mental illness. Respondents answered questions regarding a vignette in which an adult had depression (N=193) or one in which a child had depression (N=312).

Results: Respondents evaluated childhood depression as more serious than adult depression (83% versus 51%, respectively) and saw a greater potential for violence toward others among children with depression (40% for children versus 30% for adults). More respondents endorsed treatment of all types, including coerced care, for children with depression. However, significantly fewer recommended talking to family and friends about a child's mental health problem.

Conclusions: Americans are more concerned about children's depression than adults' depression and reveal more prejudice regarding perceptions of dangerousness. More respondents endorsed formal care than informal care and advice. However, the heightened stigma surrounding childhood depression poses unique challenges for youths with depression and their families.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Depression*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prejudice*
  • Public Opinion*