This study investigated family functioning in Chinese couples with a first episode of major depression, and in normal controls, and examined the association between depression severity and family impairment. Seventy-four patients with a first episode of major depression and 73 normal controls, together with their respective spouses, were assessed using the Family Assessment Device and Beck Depression Inventory. Patients with a first episode of major depression reported significantly higher Family Assessment Device scores for all dimensions compared with normal controls. Beck Depression Inventory scores were positively associated with Family Assessment Device scores for patients with a first episode of major depression for five dimensions, but not for affective responsiveness and affective involvement. A first episode of major depression was thus associated with impaired family functioning in Chinese families, and depression severity was positively associated with family impairment for the depressed patients. These findings indicate the importance of including family interventions in the treatment of Chinese patients with a first episode of major depression.