Screening for childhood depressive symptoms could start in second grade

July 21, 2009,

New research indicates that screening children for symptoms of depression, the most common mental health disorder in the United States, can begin a lot earlier than previously thought, as early as the second grade.

A University of Washington study that followed nearly 1,000 from the second to the eighth grades also found five distinct patterns for the way symptoms of develop among .

"Some children are reporting that they don't have as many friends, feel lonelier and are more anxious than their peers," said James Mazza, a UW professor of and lead author of the study. "They are telling us that they feel different from the typical happy- go-lucky second grader.

"We can start to build a profile of children's mental health in the second grade. This is important because children who are experiencing depression symptoms early on may be at great risk for mental health concerns during adolescence, based on other research studies. We want to reassure parents that everyone, including children, may feel sad or depressed once in a while, but that doesn't mean they will go on to develop depression. We are trying to understand how depression starts and evolves in childhood so that we can develop interventions to help children," Mazza said.

The new study relied on annual self reports from the children as well as parental and evaluations collected as part of the Raising Healthy Children study, a larger, long-term investigation looking at the development of healthy and problem behaviors among children at 10 suburban schools in the Pacific Northwest. The depression study used data from 511 boys and 440 girls, and 81 percent of the participants were white.

The study identified five patterns of depression symptoms, but 56 percent of the children showed no or very few symptoms of depression in the second grade.

The five patterns of depression symptoms the researchers found and the percentage of students in each group are:

  • Low stables - 26 percent. These children showed none or very few signs of depression in the second grade and their rates didn't change over time through the eighth grade.
  • Low risers - 30 percent. Children in this group also had no or few symptoms in the second grade, but the number went up by a small amount in subsequent years.
  • Mild stables - 24 percent. This group had few symptoms and then went up by a small amount in subsequent years.
  • Moderate changers - 11 percent. These children started out with a few more symptoms than the previous group and their number of symptoms rose through elementary school and then dropped in middle school.
  • Moderate risers - 9 percent. This group started off with a similar number of symptoms as the moderate changers, however their symptoms did not decrease in middle school.
The study identified different early depression risk factors for boys and girls. For boys, behavior and attention problems predicted membership in the different depression groups. For girls anxiety was an early risk factor. The research also reaffirmed previous findings showing gender differences in underlying depressive symptoms, with girls experiencing more symptoms than boys in the eighth grade

"Our children are our best resource in knowing what they are feeling inside. But it is also important to have multiple perspectives. Collecting assessments from parents, teachers and the child to identify children at early risk for depression is a good method for spotting those who may go on to have later risks," Mazza said.

The study was published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Source: University of Washington (news : web)

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Study with infants suggests language not necessary for reasoning ability

March 16, 2018
A team of researchers from Spain, Hungary and Poland has found via a study with infants that language may not be a necessity for the ability to reason. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes ...

Hep C compounds alcoholism's effect on brain volume

March 16, 2018
(HealthDay)—Alcohol dependence has deleterious effects on frontal cortical volumes that are compounded by hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and drug dependence, according to a study published online March 14 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Older adults' difficulties with focusing can be used to help put a face to a name

March 16, 2018
Everyone has experienced the awkward situation of meeting someone and then forgetting their name shortly after. Among older adults, this happens more often than not.

Study casts doubt on ketamine nasal sprays for depression

March 16, 2018
Researchers from the Black Dog Institute and UNSW Sydney have questioned the efficacy and safety of intranasal ketamine for depression, with their pilot trial stopped early due to poor side effects in patients.

A little anger in negotiation pays

March 16, 2018
During negotiations, high-intensity anger elicits smaller concessions than moderate-intensity anger, according to a new study by management and business experts at Rice University and Northwestern University.

Research reveals brain mechanism involved in language learning

March 15, 2018
Learning a new language may be more of a science than an art, a University of Sussex study finds.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jul 21, 2009
This is important news. Prevention is often the only way to treat some of the toughest mental illnesses. Screening is highly contentious, but only because the subject at hand is so precious

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.