Recurrent unipolar depression with an early age of onset is a severe form of unipolar depression that has both genetic and environmental components. We genotyped the members of 16 families identified by probands with early onset (< or = 25 years), recurrent unipolar, major depression for 38 simple sequence tandem repeat polymorphisms (SSTRPs) from chromosomal regions containing 12 genes involved in neuroendocrine or serotonergic functioning. Pairwise linkage analysis was performed with the software package FASTLINK. The affected phenotype was defined four ways, and both dominant and recessive models of depression were analyzed. Seven SSTRPs showed lod scores > 1.00 at theta values between 0.10-0.20. The members of an additional 18 families were genotyped for these seven SSTRPs, and the complete sample of 34 families was evaluated using lod score analysis, affected pedigree member linkage analysis, and within-family association analysis. Evidence for linkage between D11S929 and affective illness remained positive, necessitating the analysis of four additional SSTRPs within 3 cM of D11S929. After all confirmatory analyses were completed, no evidence suggestive of linkage remained between any of the 38 SSTRPs and the affected phenotypes.