Inattention Symptoms Predict Level of Depression in Early Childhood

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Khushmand Rajendran, PhD, MSW; Sarah O’Neill, PhD; Jeffrey M. Halperin, PhD

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Postgraduate Medicine:

Volume 125 No. 1


Clinical Features

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DOI: 10.3810/pgm.2013.01.2630
Objective: To investigate the potential bidirectional relationships between severity of inattention and depression across early childhood. Methods: Children (N = 216) from the New York, NY, metropolitan area were recruited when they were aged 3 to 4 years (T1) and studied again at age 6 (T2) and 7 (T3) years. Child inattention symptoms were measured using the Kiddie–Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School-Aged Children–Present and Lifetime, along with both parent and teacher reports on the Behavior Assessment System for Children, Second Edition (BASC-2). Severity of child depression was assessed at each time point using parent and teacher reports on the BASC-2. After examining correlations between child inattention and depression, structural equation modeling was used to investigate whether child inattention was longitudinally related to child depression, and whether child depression symptoms were associated with later child inattention. Results: Severity of child inattention at T1 and T2 was longitudinally associated with increased severity of child depression at T2 and T3, respectively. Early child depression was not longitudinally associated with later child inattention. Conclusion: Child inattention is a risk factor for increased levels of child depression. Pediatricians and clinicians who assess children’s inattention symptoms also need to investigate symptoms of depression. This study makes a case for treating children’s inattention symptoms at preschool and early childhood, before emotional problems become more severe.

Keywords: inattention; depression; attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder; preschool; early childhood; longitudinal