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Keywords:

  • Adolescent depression;
  • early onset;
  • recurrent;
  • community sample;
  • interpersonal functioning;
  • longitudinal studies

Background:  Evaluated trajectories of adolescent depression and their correlates in a longitudinal study of a community sample: early onset (by age 15) with major depression (MDE) recurrence between 15 and 20; early onset with no recurrence; later onset of major depression after age 15 with and without recurrence by 20; and never-depressed.

Methods:  Eight-hundred sixteen youth were studied at age 15, and 699 were included at age 20, with diagnostic evaluations and assessments of functioning in major roles.

Results:  Youth with early onset and recurrent MDE differed from both those with early onset but nonrecurrent MDE and those with later onset-no recurrence in terms of clinical features, adolescent social functioning, and later psychosocial adjustment. The early onset recurrent depressed youth had more severe, chronic, suicidal depressions, greater anxiety comorbidity, worse social functioning at 15, and poorer psychosocial, especially social, outcomes at 20.

Conclusions:  Youth with depression by 15 with recurrence by age 20 may represent a high-risk group, with likely life-course-persistent depression and maladjustment. Community youth whose early depression does not recur by age 20, or who have onset with no recurrence after age 15, may have more benign and possibly limited depressions. Later onset with recurrence is also a group at risk for dysfunctional outcomes, requiring further follow-up.