Objective: This project was designed to provide prospective data on the clinical presentation and longitudinal course of depression in children and adolescents.
Method: Children and their parent(s) completed a structured diagnostic interview (Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School Age Children) at intake, and then yearly for 3 years. Collateral data were collected on school, social, and family functioning.
Results: Mean length of initial depressive episode was 35.6 weeks, SD of 26 weeks. Of the 65 depressed youths who completed the 3-year follow-up, 35 (54%) disclosed another episode of depression. Demographic, family-environment, and diagnostic variables were explored as predictors of characteristics of initial episode, recurrence of depression, and psychosocial competence at follow-up. Female gender and presence of a coexisting anxiety disorder were significantly related to severity of initial depression. Family environment was the only predictor significantly related to overall psychosocial competence over 3 years.
Conclusions: The findings confirm depression in youth as a valid clinical phenomenon, with substantial risk of recurrence. Increased levels of stress in the family environment were associated with poorer overall outcomes.