The role of familial risk, parental psychopathology, and stress for first-onset depression during adolescence

Nourhan M. Elsayed, Kristina M. Fields, Rene L. Olvera, Douglas E. Williamson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Background: Adolescence represents a critical developmental period during which the initial onset of depression emerges. Family risk for depression is a salient risk factor for the initial onset of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). We examined the effects of familial risk, stress, and behavior on the risk of developing first-onset depression. Methods: Adolescents aged 12 to 15 with high (n = 166)or low (n = 159)familial risk for depression were assessed annually for up to five years. Stress was assessed using the Stressful Life Events Schedule and Childhood Trauma Questionnaire. The Kiddie Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia-Present and Lifetime Version was administered to the adolescents and their parents to assess lifetime psychiatric conditions and diagnose MDD onset. Survival and path analyses were used in tandem to determine the risk for first-onset depression as well as the contributions of additional direct and indirect pathways to onset. Results: High-risk adolescents were eight times more likely to develop first-onset depression compared with low-risk adolescents. The path analyses revealed that the presence of maternal behavioral disorders and increased recent life stress directly predicted an initial onset of MDD in high-risk adolescents. Limitations: The small samples used in this study limit the generalizability of these findings. Conclusions: Adolescents at high familial risk for depression had an increased risk for the emergence of first-onset depression during adolescence. Stress and maternal behavioral psychopathology directly contributed to depression onset independently of familial risk, while childhood trauma exerted an indirect effect on first-onset MDD through recent stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)232-239
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - Jun 15 2019


  • Adolescence
  • Depression
  • Intergenerational transmission
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'The role of familial risk, parental psychopathology, and stress for first-onset depression during adolescence'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this