Children engaged in an early depression intervention with a parent have shown improvement in rates and severity of depression as well as emotional function, according to a study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry.
This single-blind randomized controlled trial included 229 children (age range, 3 to 6.11 years) who were randomly assigned to receive a treatment consisting of a parent-child dyad (n-114 dyads) who underwent parent-child interaction therapy with a new module for emotion development (PCIT-ED) and to be added to a waiting list (n=115). Children receiving PCIT-ED showed decreased rates and severity of depression compared with those in the waiting list, reduced impairment (Cohen’s d values >1.0), and improved emotional function. Parents in the PCIT-ED dyads experienced improvements in depression and stress.
The primary outcome of this study was a diagnosis of major depression, and secondary outcomes included severity of depression and scores on the Children’s Global Assessment Scale, Beck Depression Inventory–II, Preschool and Early Childhood Functional Assessment Scale/Child and Adolescent Functional Assessment Scale, and Preschool Feelings Checklist-Scale Version. General linear models were used to evaluate continuous measures, and logistic regression was used to analyze diagnoses of major depression.
The study researchers concluded that “early intervention for depression may be a window of opportunity to modify emotional functioning, utilizing the powerful influence of the parent-child relationship during this relatively neuroplastic developmental period to remediate depressive symptoms. Given that depression is a chronic and relapsing disorder, these findings on an early, low-cost, low-risk psychotherapeutic intervention suggest that early identification and treatment of depressive disorders should become a public health priority.”
Luby JL, Barch DM, Whalen D, Tillman R, Freedland KE. A randomized controlled trial of parent-child psychotherapy targeting emotion development for early childhood depression [published online June 20, 2018]. Am J Psychiatry. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2018.18030321