Clinical presentation and course of depression in youth: Does onset in childhood differ from onset in adolescence?

Boris Birmaher, Douglas E. Williamson, Ronald E. Dahl, David A. Axelson, Joan Kaufman, Lorah D. Dorn, Neal D. Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

149 Scopus citations


Objective: To simultaneously and prospectively compare the clinical presentation, course, and parental psychiatric history between children and adolescents with major depressive disorder. Method: A group of prepubertal children (n = 46) and postpubertal adolescents (n = 22) were assessed with structured interviews for psychopathology and parental psychiatric history and followed once every 2 years for approximately 5 years. Results: With the exception of more depressive melancholic symptoms in the adolescents, both groups had similar depressive symptomatology, duration (average 17 months), severity of the index episode, rates of recovery (85%) and recurrence (40%), comorbid disorders, and parental psychiatric history. Female sex, increased guilt, prior episodes of depression, and parental psychopathology were associated with worse longitudinal course. Conclusions: In general, major depressive disorder is manifested similarly in children and adolescents, and both groups have a protracted clinical course and high family loading for psychiatric disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-70
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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