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Why do anxious children become depressed teenagers? The role of social evaluative threat and reward processing

  • J. S. Silk (a1), S. Davis (a2), D. L. McMakin (a1), R. E. Dahl (a3) and E. E. Forbes (a1)...



Depression is a leading cause of worldwide disability. Adolescence represents a key developmental window in which rates of this disorder increase markedly. Children with an anxiety disorder show a particular risk of developing depression during adolescence.


We present and review evidence for a developmental model that considers the intersection of two vulnerabilities relevant to the trajectory from anxiety to depression: difficulties in response to potential social evaluation and changes in reward processing at puberty.


Evidence suggests that these vulnerabilities (a) have been associated with depression, (b) are likely to be problematic in many, but not all, anxious youth, and (c) may be exacerbated by maturational processes that occur around pubertal development in ways that can create a negative spiral into a depressive disorder.


We discuss the possibility that early intervention strategies targeting key aspects of these vulnerabilities could alter the trajectory away from depression for many anxious youth.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: J. S. Silk, Ph.D., Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh, 3811 O'Hara Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA. (Email:


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Why do anxious children become depressed teenagers? The role of social evaluative threat and reward processing

  • J. S. Silk (a1), S. Davis (a2), D. L. McMakin (a1), R. E. Dahl (a3) and E. E. Forbes (a1)...


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