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A review of the psychiatric literature on childhood depression indicates confusion in the basic concept of depressive illness in childhood. There is no general agreement on criteria for childhood depression. The diagnosis of depression in childhood is being based on clinical impression, arbitrarily selected criteria, or on a favorable response to treatment with antidepressants. There is no distinction between primary and secondary depression. The diagnosis of “masked depression” is given to children with a wide range of different problems, based on the hypothesis that depression in childhood can be manifested by clinical symptomatology quite distinct from that found in adults. However, recent studies do not support this hypothesis. Most studies on childhood depression include a wide range of children in spite of the fact that from the data available in current literature it seems justified to distinguish between the different age groups of children, mainly the prepubertal and the adolescent groups.

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