Prediction of Preadolescent Depressive Symptoms From Child Temperament, Maternal Distress, and Gender: Results of a Prospective, Longitudinal Study

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Objective:The delineation of developmental pathways to juvenile depressive symptoms is of major clinical interest because these are known to be predictive for adult mood disorders and for a range of other mental health problems. This study investigates the impact of child temperament and early maternal distress, both of which are known to influence children's emotional development, on preadolescent depression.Methods:In a prospective, longitudinal at-risk sample (163 boys, 178 girls), we assessed temperament at the age of 3 months and at 2 years, 4.5 years, and 8 years, respectively, and chronic maternal distress during infancy. Hierarchical linear regression analysis was used to investigate the prediction of depressive symptoms at the age of 11 years measured by the Child Depression Inventory. In addition, we controlled for psychosocial and obstetric perinatal risks and gender.Results:Psychosocial risks and self-control temperament made significant independent contributions to preadolescent depression, whereas fearful, difficult temperament and obstetric risks were unrelated to depressive outcome. Interestingly, a clear gender difference emerged with a significant prediction from maternal distress only in girls.Conclusions:Our data extend previous findings of a concurrent association between regulative temperament and juvenile depression to a predictive view. Furthermore, the results point toward gender-specific pathways to preadolescent depression and support earlier findings indicating that subclinical maternal distress may exert as detrimental effects on child development as clinical depression.

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