Development and Psychopathology

Developmental differences in the phenomenology of depression

a1 Vanderbilt University

Most researchers and clinicians now agree that children and adolescents are able to develop depressive disorders, and there also appears to be consensus that developmental level has relatively little influence on the phenomenology of the depression. The present paper examines the validity of this latter assumption from methodological, theoretical, and empirical perspectives. We first review reasons why there might be developmental differences in the symptoms that define depression, and then discuss the implications and significance if such differences do or do not exist. Next, we highlight methodological and design issues relevant to the appropriate evaluation of this question. Then, we propose that this broad developmental question actually is comprised of two subquestions—one focusing on symptoms and the other focused at the syndrome level—that have not yet been clearly differentiated in the field. Finally, after conducting a meta-analysis of the current empirical literature and reviewing its limitations, recommendations are made regarding future research in this area.

c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Bahr Weiss, Peabody MSC #512, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37203; E-mail: