Early maladaptive schemas (EMS) are broad, pervasive themes and patterns of emotions, memories, cognition and physical sensations that impede the goal of individuals. Maladaptive behaviours can occur as a response to maladaptive or negative schemas, often culminating in depression or anxiety. The current meta-analysis integrates the existing literature to estimate the magnitude of effect of association between EMS and depression among adolescents and young adults. A systematic search of seven different databases including Embase, CINAHL, Medline, ASSIA, Psych INFO, Scopus and Web of Science was carried out identifying 24 relevant studies of adolescents (10–18 years) and young adults (19–29 years). The random-effect model estimate for association between overall EMS and depression was r = 0.56 (95% CI 0.49–0.63, Z = 12.88, p ≤ 0.0001), suggesting higher predominant EMS significantly linked to higher levels of depressive symptoms, with a large effect size. Separate meta-analytical results with schema domains indicated moderately stronger associations between schemas of disconnection/rejection, impaired autonomy/performance and other-directedness with depression. Age and gender were not found to have any significant moderating effect on the associations. The findings suggest that it is vital for clinicians to identify specific maladaptive schemas contributing towards depression, to have a better understanding of underlying cognitive processes and in turn promote psychological health, well-being and resilience in adolescents and young adults. Furthermore, findings will also assist clinicians to focus more on the content of three significant schema domains, which emerged as particularly salient factors underlying adolescent depression.