Project Overview

Depression currently affects 19 million Americans and impacts the lives of millions of families. Research indicates that 10% to 15% of children will experience an episode of major depression before the age of 15. Children whose parents suffer from depression are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop depression. Fortunately, a growing body of research suggests that the adverse affects of parental depression may be reduced or prevented through psychosocial intervention.

Parents who are depressed often struggle with feelings of sadness and irritability and find it hard to be available to their children. Depression can make it more difficult to parent consistently and families often find life more stressful when a parent is experiencing depression. Many parents worry that this may put their child at risk for depression as well.

This study is testing two family–based programs to see if they can possibly prevent children from becoming depressed or developing other mental health problems. Both programs are trying to do this by helping families understand depression, improve parenting skills, and help children learn how to cope with stress, especially the stress that results from their parent’s depression.

Eligible families are randomly offered participation in one of the following two programs:

Family Group Program:

If your family is offered this program you will be asked to participate in 10 weekly group sessions followed by 4 monthly group sessions. This program includes education about depression and helps family members to identify and cope with stress. Parents learn parenting skills and children learn coping skills. Families also complete homework assignments between sessions. Each group session will last approximately 2 hours and will be held at a location in your community at a time that is convenient for all participating families.

Family Readings Program:

If your family is offered this program you will be provided with clinician-selected reading materials about the nature of depression and the effects of parental depression on children and families. Parents will also receive information on parenting skills and the treatment of depression. Each family will be given assignments to review on their own. Families will be contacted periodically by our research team to check on how the reading is going.