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Functioning status of adult children of depressed parents: a 23-year follow-up.

Timko C, Cronkite RC, Swindle R, Robinson RL, Turrubiartes P, Moos RH. Functioning status of adult children of depressed parents: a 23-year follow-up. Psychological medicine. 2008 Mar 1; 38(3):343-52.

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BACKGROUND: We compared adult offspring of depressed or control parents who were followed for 23 years. Comparisons were on depression symptoms, physical functioning and disability, social functioning, and utilization of help and coping. Also examined was whether the parent's course of depression (stably remitted, partially remitted, non-remitted) was associated with offspring functioning. METHOD: Depressed parents successfully followed at 23 years (n = 248, 82%) identified 215 adult offspring; 67% returned questionnaires. Matched control parents successfully followed (n = 235, 79%) identified 261 adult offspring; 68% completed questionnaires. RESULTS: Adult offspring of depressed parents were more impaired than adult offspring of controls (with gender and education controlled) in the domains of depression and disability, and obtained more help for mental health problems. They also reported more severe recent stressors and relied more on active cognitive coping and seeking alternative rewards to cope. Adult offspring of depressed and control parents were comparable in a number of domains: psychiatric and behavioral problems other than depression, physical functioning and pain, social functioning, and hospitalizations and medication use for depression. Adult offspring of parents with a non-remitted course of depression were the most likely to show impaired functioning compared with controls. CONCLUSIONS: Having a parent with depression is associated with more depression and disability in adulthood, but does not have debilitating effects in other life domains. Nonetheless, it may be important for offspring of depressed parents, particularly offspring of parents with a non-remitting depression course, to recognize their elevated risk of depression and potential need for help.

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