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05-11-2019 | Original Article | Uitgave 2/2020 Open Access

Child Psychiatry & Human Development 2/2020

Risk of Depression in the Offspring of Parents with Depression: The Role of Emotion Regulation, Cognitive Style, Parenting and Life Events

Child Psychiatry & Human Development > Uitgave 2/2020
Johanna Loechner, Anca Sfärlea, Kornelija Starman, Frans Oort, Laura Asperud Thomsen, Gerd Schulte-Körne, Belinda Platt
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10578-019-00930-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Children of depressed parents are at heightened risk for developing depression, yet relatively little is known about the specific mechanisms responsible. Since preventive interventions for this risk group show small effects which diminish overtime, it is crucial to uncover the key risk factors for depression. This study compared various potential mechanisms in children of depressed (high-risk; n = 74) versus non-depressed (low-risk; n = 37) parents and explored mediators of parental depression and risk in offspring. A German sample of N = 111 boys and girls aged 8 to 17 years were compared regarding children’s (i) symptoms of depression and general psychopathology, (ii) emotion regulation strategies, (iii) attributional style, (iv) perceived parenting style and (v) life events. Children in the high-risk group showed significantly more symptoms of depression and general psychopathology, less adaptive emotion regulation strategies, fewer positive life events and fewer positive parenting strategies in comparison with the low-risk group. Group differences in positive and negative attributional style were small and not statistically significant in a MANOVA test. Maladaptive emotion regulation strategies and negative life events were identified as partial mediators of the association between parental depression and children’s risk of depression. The study highlights the elevated risk of depression in children of depressed parents and provides empirical support for existing models of the mechanisms underlying transmission. Interestingly, the high-risk group was characterised by a lack of protective rather than increased vulnerability factors. These results are crucial for developing more effective preventive interventions for this high-risk population.

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