• executive functioning;
  • children;
  • adolescents;
  • depression;
  • anxiety


Background: Executive functioning deficits (EFDs) have been found in adults with major depression and some anxiety disorders, yet it is unknown whether these deficits predate onset of disorder, or whether they reflect acute symptoms. Studies of at-risk offspring can shed light on this question by examining whether EFDs characterize children at high risk for depression and anxiety who are not yet symptomatic. Methods: This study examined neuropsychological functioning in a sample of 147 children, ages 6–17 years (M age=9.16, SD=1.82), of parents with major depression (MDD) and/or panic disorder (PD) and of controls with neither disorder. Children were assessed via structured diagnostic interviews and neuropsychological measures. Results: Although parental MDD and PD were not associated with neuropsychological impairments, presence of current offspring MDD was associated with poorer performance on several executive functioning and processing speed measures. Children with current generalized anxiety showed poorer verbal memory, whereas children with social phobia had more omissions on a continuous performance task. Conclusions: Findings suggest that EFDs do not serve as trait markers for developing anxiety or depression but appear to be symptomatic of current disorder. Depression and Anxiety, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.