Emotion identification in girls at high risk for depression

Jutta Joormann, Kirsten Gilbert, Ian H. Gotlib

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Background: Children of depressed mothers are themselves at elevated risk for developing a depressive disorder. We have little understanding, however, of the specific factors that contribute to this increased risk. This study investigated whether never-disordered daughters whose mothers have experienced recurrent episodes of depression during their daughters' lifetime differ from never-disordered daughters of never-disordered mothers in their processing of facial expressions of emotion. Method: Following a negative mood induction, daughters completed an emotion identification task in which they watched faces slowly change from a neutral to a full-intensity happy, sad, or angry expression. We assessed both the intensity that was required to accurately identify the emotion being expressed and errors in emotion identification. Results: Daughters of depressed mothers required greater intensity than did daughters of control mothers to accurately identify sad facial expressions; they also made significantly more errors identifying angry expressions. Conclusion: Cognitive biases may increase vulnerability for the onset of disorders and should be considered in early intervention and prevention efforts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)575-582
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2010


  • Affective disorders
  • Cognition
  • Depression
  • Emotion
  • Facial expression
  • Risk factors


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