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March 2016

Children of Depressed Parents—A Public Health Opportunity

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, New York
  • 2Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, New York
  • 3Division of Epidemiology, New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, New York
JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73(3):197-198. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.2967

One of the best-replicated findings in clinical psychiatry is that the biological offspring of depressed parents (usually mothers are studied) themselves have considerable emotional and functional problems, usually depression and anxiety. These findings have been shown cross-sectionally in infants1 and in prepubescent, adolescent, and adult offspring.2 Offspring followed up longitudinally show that their risk continues over time.3 The magnitude of the risk varies between 2-fold and 6-fold depending on the control group and outcome used as well as the phenotype definition.

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