Children who seldom smile, laugh or hug a parent might be at risk for depression

Children who seldom smile, laugh or hug a parent might be at risk for depression

(Medical Xpress) -- A new study from the University of Michigan and the University of Pittsburgh shows that even if a child isn't crying, frowning or displaying other negative emotions on a consistent basis, another warning sign is when a child shows fewer positive displays, like hugging a parent or smiling and laughing.

"Surprisingly, it seems that it is low levels of happiness, as opposed to high levels of sadness, what may help explain why these kids too often develop depressive disorders," said Nestor Lopez-Duran, an assistant professor of psychology at U-M and one of the study's authors.

The study involved 140 mothers and 202 children, ranging in age from late to 9 years. Groups were divided into two: Children of mothers with a history of depression and healthy mothers. Children were seen annually for a laboratory assessment that was videotaped while completing tasks to elicit positive and .

In the study, children whose mothers had a history of depression and therefore were at high risk for the disorder did not differ from their low-risk peers in the amount of negative emotions they experienced, said Nestor Lopez-Duran. However, compared to their peers, children at for depression had lower frequencies of positive emotions.

A reduced capacity for positive affect may keep kids from effectively managing their negative moods, and thus may represent one source of vulnerability to depressive disorders, the researchers wrote.

Lopez-Duran said parents should not ignore the child's or frustration; they just should also be attuned to their children's positive emotional displays. If parents encourage their kids to play, but their kids don't seem to be able experience happiness from any activity, it could signal a red flag for depression.

Lopez-Duran recommends that parents seek professional help if their kids show more such as , poor appetite, sad mood, difficulty concentrating, or irritability.

University of Pittsburgh researchers who participated in the study were lead author Thomas Olino, Maria Kovacs, Charles George, Amy Gentzler and Daniel Shaw.

The findings appear in the current issue of Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

More information: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10… 10.2010.02331.x/full

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Boy toddlers need extra help dealing with negative emotions

Mar 08, 2011

The way you react to your two-year-old's temper tantrums or clinginess may lead to anxiety, withdrawal and behavior problems down the road, and the effect is more pronounced if the child is a boy who often displays such negative ...

Schoolkids May Need Coaching on Emotions, School Success

Mar 18, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Your 7-year-old may understand that a positive attitude is an asset when taking a spelling test, doing a math problem or tackling a science lesson. But don't expect a kindergartner to make that link.

Recommended for you

Mothers don't speak so clearly to their babies

Jan 23, 2015

People have a distinctive way of talking to babies and small children: We speak more slowly, using a sing-song voice, and tend to use cutesy words like "tummy". While we might be inclined to think that we ...

Explainer: What is sexual fluidity?

Jan 23, 2015

Sexual preferences are not set in stone and can change over time, often depending on the immediate situation the individual is in. This has been described as sexual fluidity. For example, if someone identifies as heterosexual but th ...

Lucky charms: When are superstitions used most?

Jan 23, 2015

It might be a lucky pair of socks, or a piece of jewelry; whatever the item, many people turn to a superstition or lucky charm to help achieve a goal. For instance, you used a specific avatar to win a game and now you see ...

Low-income boys fare worse in wealth's shadow

Jan 22, 2015

Low-income boys fare worse, not better, when they grow up alongside more affluent neighbors, according to new findings from Duke University. In fact, the greater the economic gap between the boys and their neighbors, the ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.