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With recent developments in community psychiatric services, concern with prevention has become an urgent social, as well as medical challenge. Comprehensive investigation into causation must therefore be given systematic emphasis. This paper is an effort toward clarification of etiology, specifically of the depressive disorder, in terms of early childhood experiences.The work is based on social and psychiatric history data collected by experienced psychiatric social workers on two groups of subjects from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Collaborative Depression Studies under the direction of Allen Raskin, Ph.D. of the NIMH Psychology Research Branch, and a third group of subjects from Boston State Hospital.The hypothesis that childhood deprivation, defined as “the lack, loss or absence of an emotionally sustaining relationship prior to adolescence,” has a meaningful association with the occurrence of adult depression was tested in a sample of 347 depressed inpatient women and 114 outpatient women in comparison to 198 normal women used as a control or reference population. The subjects were all Caucasian.Events occurring during childhood that could be considered within the definition of deprivation were documented. Further, subjects were assessed as to depriving childrearing experiences.The findings revealed no association of adult depression with overt childhood loss events, but did provide evidence to support an association of depriving childrearing processes with adult depression. The findings also revealed evidence of a relationship between the degree of the depriving childrearing experience with the severity of the adult illness as measured by hospital status.The results are discussed in relation to findings from other studies of childhood deprivation and psychiatric disorder.

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