Depression affects approximately 7.5 million adults. Because of this, nearly 15 million children currently live with a depressed parent. These children are nearly four times more likely to develop depression as a result, and treating this group of adults and children is a major health priority. Bruce E. Compas, of the Department of Psychology and Human Development at Vanderbilt University, led a study to determine if family group cognitive behavioral (FGCB) prevention intervention could lower this staggering statistic. His team enrolled 111 parents, all who had experienced at least one major depressive episode (MDD) during the life of their child, and 155 children for the study. The children, 70 girls and 85 boys, were between the ages of 9 and 15.
The researchers used various diagnostic tools to assess symptoms of anxiety and depression in the children, and used the The Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School-Age Children – Present and Lifetime Version, to interview the youths. Parents were evaluated with the Beck Depressive Inventory. The participants were divided into two groups, one receiving FGCB for eight weeks, the other receiving the written information intervention, a method by which written educational and assessment information is mailed to children and parents. The participants were assessed again at 18 and 24 months after the completion of their respective treatments.
The research revealed that “Children in the FGCB condition were significantly lower in self-reports of anxiety/depression and internalizing symptoms at 18 months and were significantly lower in self-reports of externalizing symptoms at 18 and 24 months.” The researchers added, “The most striking finding for the current study is found in the rates of MDD over 24 months, which were reduced by more than half in children in the FGCB intervention (14.3%) as compared with children in the WI condition (32.7%).” The concluded, “However, more important, 66.7% of the parents in the WI condition and 55.0% of parents in the FGCB intervention experienced at least one recurrence of MDD over the 24-month follow-up period. These rates are strikingly high, reflecting the recurrent nature of depression in adulthood. They underscore the potential importance of teaching children skills to cope with the chronic and recurrent stress that is likely to accompany recurrent episodes of depression in their parents.”
Compas, Bruce E., Jennifer C. Thigpen, Emily J. Hardcastle, David A. Cole, Jennifer Potts, Kelly H. Watson, Kristen Reeslund, Jessica Fear, Rex Forehand, Gary Keller, Aaron Rakow, Christina Colletti, Emily Garai, Laura McKee, M. J. Merchant, and Lorinda Roberts. “Family Group Cognitive–Behavioral Preventive Intervention for Families of Depressed Parents: 18- and 24-Month Outcomes.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 79.4 (2011): 488-99. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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