Children of treatment-seeking depressed mothers: a comparison with the sequenced treatment alternatives to relieve depression (STAR*D) child study

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2012 Nov;51(11):1185-96. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2012.08.020.


Objective: To estimate the prevalence of current psychiatric disorders among children and adolescents (collectively called children) of mothers entering treatment for depression; to examine maternal predictors of child psychopathology among children of depressed mothers; and to determine consistency of findings with a similar child study ancillary to Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Reduce Depression (STAR⁎D) from seven United States sites (STAR⁎D-Child).

Method: Mothers (N = 82) with major depressive disorder (MDD) enrolled in a treatment study in Ottawa (Ontario, Canada) or New York City, and their eligible children (N = 145) (aged 7 through 17 years) were assessed independently when the mother enrolled.

Results: Among the children of depressed mothers, 42% had at least one current psychiatric diagnosis, including affective (15%), anxiety (19%), behavioral (23%), and/or substance use (2%) disorders. In all, 40% of the children were rated as impaired by clinical assessors. Mothers' comorbid anxiety disorders predicted the highest rates of current disorders in the child in both studies. The severity of the mother's depression predicted behavioral problems in the child. The current and lifetime rates of psychiatric disorders in the children of depressed mothers were compared to rates found in STAR⁎D Child and findings were consistent. Both studies used similar diagnostic assessments.

Conclusion: Given the high prevalence of offspring psychiatric disorders, inquiring about the mental health of the children when a depressed mother comes for treatment, and referring children for treatment when appropriate, are important.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology*
  • Child of Impaired Parents / statistics & numerical data
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • Ontario / epidemiology
  • Prevalence