The New York Times Magazine has a story about depression among preschoolers this week, which asks whether depression can be diagnosable among young children, and, if so, where it might come from.
The article suggests that maternal depression can play a role, but is not definitive. The author writes: “Despite the assumption that these kids must have experienced severe psychosocial deprivation, abuse or neglect, Luby says: ‘I’ve seen many depressed kids with nurturing, caring parents. We know that psychosocial stress is an important ingredient, but it’s not the only issue. And it’s not a necessary condition either.’”
I was reminded of some of the research in Ellen Galinsky’s new book, which we wrote about here a few weeks ago, that looked at how maternal non-responsiveness can adversely affect infants. In particular this can be an issue among families living in poverty, where family stress can exacerbate the problem.
The Times story doesn’t really get into what role poverty might play in exacerbating depression among young children; she does write about the connection between anxiety and depression. This seems in part because the research is new, but common sense would say that children growing up in poverty would be more susceptible to early onset of depression and anxiety disorders, or at least would have fewer opportunities to combat it in the ways described in the story. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what the future research tells us.