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Emotion regulation strategies in offspring of childhood-onset depressed mothers


Jennifer S. Silk, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, 3811 O'Hara St., Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA; Tel: (412) 246-6879; Fax: (412) 624-8991; Email:


Background:  This study examines emotion regulation strategies used by children of mothers with childhood-onset depression (COD) and children of never-depressed mothers (NCOD).

Methods:  Participants were 49 COD offspring (ages 4–7) and 37 NCOD offspring (ages 4–7) and their mothers. Emotion regulation strategies were assessed observationally during a laboratory mood induction paradigm.

Results:  COD offspring were more likely to focus on the delay object or task than NCOD offspring. Daughters of COD mothers were also more likely to wait passively and less likely to engage in active distraction than daughters of NCOD mothers. These findings were replicated using number of maternal depressive episodes.

Conclusions:  COD offspring, especially daughters, exhibit a more passive style of regulating emotion that may place them at risk for developing psychopathology.