Children of a cohort of depressed patients 25 years on: identifying those at risk


  • Carmelle Peisah,

  • Henry Brodaty,

  • Georgina Luscombe,

  • Kaarin J Anstey

  • Academic Department for Old Age Psychiatry, Euroa Centre, Prince of Wales Hospital, Avoca Street, Randwick, Sydney, New South Wales 2031, Australia. Email:

  • Georgina Luscombe, Formerly Research Assistant

  • Academic Department for Old Age Psychiatry, Prince of Wales Hospital, Sydney, Australia; now Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney, Australia

  • Kaarin J. Anstey, Director

  • Ageing Research Unit, Centre for Mental Health Research, Canberra, Australia

Henry Brodaty, Director (Correspondence); Carmelle Peisah, Research Fellow


Objective: Factors associated with psychological outcome in children of patients with depression have been examined piecemeal, with emphasis on young rather than adult children. We hypothesized that psychological morbidity in adult children of patients with depression would be associated with characteristics of the children, their parents and their family relationships.

Method: Factors predicting psychopathology in children (n = 94) of a cohort of patients with depression, admitted to a teaching hospital 25 years earlier, were examined using logistic regression.

Results: Psychological morbidity in children was predicted by their being younger at parent's admission, their perception of the depressed parent as more controlling and chronicity of the parent's depression. Correlations between child characteristics, parent illness and family relationship variables showed systemic interactions between parental illness, child psychopathology and family relationships.

Conclusion: Chronicity (though neither recurrence nor severity) of parent depression and younger children's age at the time of parental admission for depression were associated with psychological morbidity in the children in adulthood. The interaction between child psychopathology, parental illness and family relationships emphasizes the need for a systemic, family focus in the treatment of depression.