Preschool depression: The importance of identification of depression early in development

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The empirical finding that school-aged children could suffer clinical depression refuted the widely held assumption that this age group would be too developmentally immature to experience depressive symptoms. Currently childhood depression is a well-recognized and widely treated clinical disorder. Following more recent developmental findings emphasizing the emotional sophistication of very young children, scientific studies have demonstrated that depression can arise early in life, during the preschool period of development. Preschool depression is characterized by typical symptoms of depression such as anhedonia; changes in sleep, appetite, and activity level; and excessive guilt. Further, longitudinal continuity of preschool depression into school age has been established, suggesting that preschool depression is an early manifestation of the later childhood disorder. Based on the known efficacy of early developmental intervention in a number of domains and disorders related to the greater neuroplasticity of the brain earlier rather than later in childhood, it is important to identify depression at the earliest possible point. Early intervention strategies for preschool depression that focus on enhancing emotional development are currently being tested.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-95
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2010


  • Depression
  • Emotion development
  • Preschool


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