Development and Psychopathology


Developmental pathways in depression: Multiple meanings, antecedents, and endpoints

Richard Harringtona1, Michael Ruttera1 c1 and Eric Fombonnea1

a1 MRC Child Psychiatry Unit, London


This article presents an overview of work conducted at the Institute of Psychiatry over the past 30 years on childhood depression. The work began with the basic question of definition and measurement. Epidemiological studies showed that depressive symptoms were quite common in children and were a good, if nonspecific, indicator of psychological disturbance. Further work in both epidemiological and clinical samples provided some evidence for the validity of a depressive syndrome. However, this work also showed that these depressive syndromes represented a heterogeneous group of phenomena. The validity of major depressive disorder in children was therefore tested further in longitudinal and family-genetic studies. These studies supported the validity of the concept but confirmed that there was heterogeneity in respect to both developmental stage at the time of onset and comorbidity with conduct disorder. We concluded that there are probably several different kinds of depressive syndromes in children. Some are strongly linked with depressive disorders in adulthood, but others are probably better conceptualized as part of another psychopathological problem altogether.


c1 Professor Michael Rutter, MRC Child Psychiatry Unit and the Social, Genetic, and Developmental Psychiatry Research Centre, the Institute of Psychiatry, de Crespigny Park, Denmark Hill, Camber-well, London SE5 8AF, England.