Depression in children under-recognised by parents, teachers: Study

New York: Parents and teachers may find it difficult to detect depression in young children, that can affect their social skills and academics, a new study shows.

According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America, as many as 2-3 per cent of children aged between 6-12 might have a major depressive disorder.

But parents and teachers face difficulties in recognising depression in children.

The findings, appearing in the Journal of School Psychology, showed that children who show mild to severe symptoms of depression in second and third grades are six times more likely to have skill deficits, such as difficulties with social skills or academics, than children without symptoms.

However, when teachers and parents were asked to rate a child’s level of depression, there was only about 5-10 per cent overlap in their ratings.

“Some people would view that overlap as the truth about a child’s well-being and areas of disagreement as errors, but we need to explore the possibility that each of them are seeing different aspects of children’s behaviour and mental health,” said Keith Herman, professor in the University of Missouri (MU), College of Education.

For the study, the team completed profile analyses of 643 children in early elementary school to explore how patterns between student, teacher and parent reporting can be used to gain a holistic picture of a child’s mental health.

Herman suggested that mental health professionals could work with teachers and parents to identify depressive symptoms early by including self reports from children in mental health evaluations.

“The gold standard for identifying children who might be at risk for developing depression later in life is to ask the children themselves,” noted Herman.

“However, even if a child doesn’t say they feel depressed, certain outward behaviours might provide clues to the state of the child’s mental health. It’s important for teachers and parents to catch these behaviours early to prevent long-term problems that occur with depression,” he said.