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Depression in recently bereaved prepubertal children
Am J Psychiatry 1991;148:1536-1540.
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OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to ascertain depressive symptoms in recently bereaved prepubertal children and compare these symptoms with those of depressed prepubertal children. METHOD: The subjects were 38 children who had recently experienced the death of one but not both of their parents. They had to meet strict inclusion criteria so that the effects of bereavement per se, rather than other significant stressors, could be assessed. The comparison group consisted of 38 hospitalized, depressed children individually matched to each bereaved subject for age, sex, and socioeconomic status. All of the children underwent systematic and comprehensive evaluation. They and their parents were independently evaluated by trained interviewers using the parent and child versions of the Diagnostic Interview for Children and Adolescents. Family histories and basic demographic information were also obtained. RESULTS: The recently bereaved children endorsed many depressive symptoms. Thirty-seven percent of them met the DSM-III-R criteria for a major depressive episode. The depressed children, however, had more depressive symptoms on average than the bereaved children. The factors associated with increased depressive symptoms in the bereaved children were 1) the mother as the surviving parent, 2) preexisting untreated psychiatric disorder in the child, 3) family history of depression, and 4) high socioeconomic status. CONCLUSIONS: A considerable number of the bereaved children developed the clinical symptoms of a major depressive episode immediately after the death of a parent. The relation of these symptoms to the subsequent course of grief and to major depressive disorder remains unknown and should be studied further.

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