Associations of Parental and Grandparental Major Depressive Disorders with Preschoolers’ Behavioral and Emotional Problems

The Oregon Adolescent Depression Project (OADP) initially assessed students from nine Oregon high schools on three occasions from 1987 to 1999. The participants who subsequently had children were assessed with the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Disorders (SCID) and data were collected on the parents and relatives of the participants. When the children of the participants were 2 years old, both the mothers and fathers rated their children on the CBCL/2-3. The 2-year-olds’ Internalizing and Externalizing scores were computed by averaging ratings from both parents.

Multiple regression analyses showed that both grandparental and parental depression significantly predicted elevated CBCL/2-3 scores for Internalizing problems but not Externalizing problems. Mean Internalizing scores were significantly higher for 2-year-olds whose family members had major depression than for those whose family members did not have major depression. Moreover, the Internalizing scores were similar for 2-year-olds whose parents or grandparental generations or both had major depression. The authors concluded that their results argue for including the grandchildren of depressed grandparents in studies of children at risk for depression, regardless of whether the children’s parents are diagnosed as depressed.

Reference: Olino, T.M., Pettit, J.W., Klein, D.N., Allen, N.B., Seeley, J.R., & Lewinsohn, P.M. (2008). Influence of parental and grandparental major depressive disorder on behavior problems in early childhood: A three-generation study. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 47, 53-60.