Family-Based Therapy May Be Best For Preadolescent Children With Depression

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Depressed ChildPreadolescent children with depression may benefit from Family Based Interpersonal Psychotherapy (FB-IPT) more than child-centered therapy (CCT) according to the findings of a study recently published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Preadolescents experiencing depression or other depression disorders often do not meet the full criteria for Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) which leads the researchers to believe young children with these disorders may be under-diagnosed and often untreated. However, previous research has shown preadolescents with depressive symptoms have a heightened chance of being diagnosed with MDD in adolescence.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine evaluated 42 preadolescents (between the ages of 7 and 12) with depression. For the study, the children were randomly placed in one of two therapy plans.

Currently there is no “best practice” for caring or treating preadolescents diagnosed with depression.

The researchers assigned half the children to FB-IPT, an intervention which involves parents in the child’s treatment and focuses on improving relationships with family and peers. The other children participating in the study were placed in child-centered therapy, a supportive therapy for children.

The assess the children, the team measured depressive symptoms using a clinician-rated children’s depression rating scale, along with mood questionnaires completed by both the children and their parents.

According to the findings, preadolescents treated in FB-IPT had significantly higher chances of experiencing remission (66 percent compared to 31 percent). The children receiving FB-IPT also saw larger decreases in depression symptoms when measured pre- to post-treatment, as well as decreased symptoms post-treatment when compared to children assigned to CCT.

The children placed in FB-IPT also reported significant reductions in anxiety symptoms.

The researchers found FB-IPT also helped to reduce social impairment in depressed preadolescents linked to decreases in depressive symptoms.

“These findings provide strong support for Family Based Interpersonal Psychotherapy as an effective treatment for depression in children between the ages of seven to 12,” said Laura J. Dietz, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and principal investigator of the study.

“It also highlights the importance of early intervention for depressed preadolescents who are at risk for depression as teenagers.”

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