Depression markers in young children's play: a comparison between depressed and nondepressed 3- to 6-year-olds in various play situations

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Background and methodThe behaviour of 30 depressed 3- to 6-year-olds was observed in three play situations (solitary free play, interactive free play, and play narratives) and compared to the behaviour of 30 nondepressed clinical and 30 nondepressed nonclinical peers.ResultsDepressed children showed significantly less play, particularly less symbolic play, than nondepressed children. Instead, they exhibited more nonplay behaviours, such as exploration and undirected behaviours, than the control children. Moreover, the behaviour of the depressed children was less coherent than that of the nondepressed children, as evident from a greater number of shifts from one type of behaviour to another.ConclusionsDifferences between depressed and nondepressed children were most prominent during the play narratives and were particularly striking when a sad mood was presented.

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