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Are self-reported depressive symptoms in first-grade children developmentally transient phenomena? A further look

  • Nick Ialongo (a1), Gail Edelsohn (a2), Lisa Werthamer-Larsson (a1), Lisa Crockett (a3) and Sheppard Kellam (a1)...

Abstract

In light of putative developmental constraints, some have argued that prior to the middle to late elementary school years children's reports of depressive symptoms represent nothing more than transient developmental phenomena. In an earlier study of an epidemiologically defined sample of first-grade children, self-reported depressive symptoms proved relatively stable and significantly related to adaptive functioning. In the present study, we follow that cohort of first graders longitudinally and assess the prognostic value of self-reports of depressive symptoms in first grade with respect to depressive symptoms and adaptive functioning in the late elementary school years. We also assess whether or not children's reports of depressive symptoms demonstrate greater stability and are more highly associated with adaptive functioning in the middle to late elementary school years. First-grade depressive symptoms were found to have significant prognostic value in terms of levels of depressive symptoms and adaptive functioning in fifth grade, with the strength of prediction varying by gender in the former. Although there was a moderate increase in short-term stability from first to fifth grade, it remained consistently strong across first, fourth, and fifth grades. The magnitude of the relationship between depressive symptoms and adaptive functioning also remained consistent over time. These findings on stability, caseness, and prognostic power attest to the significance of children's self-reports of depressive symptoms in the early as well as the middle to late elementary school years.

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Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Dr. Ialongo, Department of Mental Hygiene, School of Hygiene and Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, 624 North Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21205.

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Are self-reported depressive symptoms in first-grade children developmentally transient phenomena? A further look

  • Nick Ialongo (a1), Gail Edelsohn (a2), Lisa Werthamer-Larsson (a1), Lisa Crockett (a3) and Sheppard Kellam (a1)...

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