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Project Description (7)

Family Cognitive-Behavioral Prevention of Depression

Study Description

Children of depressed parents are at significantly increased risk for depression and other forms of psychopathology. Three psychosocial mechanisms are associated with increased risk for psychopathology in these children—stressful parent-child interactions and the ways that children respond to and cope with these stressful interactions. Specifically, parenting behavior that is characterized by intrusiveness and withdrawal and children’s negative cognitive style are associated with increased problems in children. In contrast, children’s use of secondary control coping (cognitive restructuring, acceptance, distraction) is related to lower problems. This study examines in a randomized clinical trial the efficacy of a family-based cognitive behavioral intervention to prevent the adverse effects of parental depression on offspring. Depressed parents, their spouses, and their children (ages 9 to 16-years-old) were randomly assigned to a multifamily cognitive behavioral group intervention or to a self-study control condition. The 12 session (8 acute and 4 follow-up) family cognitive behavioral intervention includes coping skills training for children and parenting skills training for depressed parents and their spouses. Families in the comparison condition received only written educational materials about depression and its effects on families. Measures administered at pre-, post- and 6-, 12-, 18-, and 24-month follow-ups include assessment of mood disorders and other psychiatric disorders, internalizing and externalizing problems in children. Possible mediators of the effects of the intervention are also evaluated, including parental depressive symptoms and episodes of depression, parental intrusiveness and withdrawal, and children’s coping and stress responses. Our goal is to determine the efficacy of this intervention that is unique in its focus on helping children of depressed parents to cope with stressful interactions with their parents, and to improve the parenting skills of depressed parents.


Grants R01MH069940 and R01 MH069928 from the National Institute of Mental Health

Other Links and Resources

Need help finding mental health treatment? Possible resources include:

Mental Health Association of Middle Tennessee


In Press