First onsets of depression are especially common in adolescent females and often develop into chronic/recurrent illness. Surprisingly few studies have comprehensively evaluated multiple domains of etiologically-informative risk factors for first onset in adolescents from the community. We investigated whether clinical, cognitive, personality, interpersonal, and biological risk factors prospectively predict a first onset of depressive disorder (DD), and of DD with a chronic/recurrent course, in a community sample of adolescent girls.
479 girls (13.5-15.5 years) with no history of DD completed baseline assessments of risk factors and five diagnostic assessments over 3 years. Baseline measures were analyzed separately and jointly to prospectively predict first-onset DD and first-onset chronic/recurrent DD.
Most risk factors predicted first-onset DD (n = 93), including depressive symptoms, anxiety disorders, rumination, personality traits, blunted neural response (late positive potential [LPP]) to unpleasant pictures, peer victimization, parental criticism, and parental mood disorder. Depressive symptoms, rumination, parental mood disorder, and parental criticism were independently associated with first onsets. Nearly all measures, including a blunted neural response to rewards (reward positivity [RewP]), also predicted first-onset chronic/recurrent DD (n = 52), with depressive symptoms, low extraversion, poor peer relationships, and blunted RewP emerging as independent risk factors.
This study focused on adolescent females and therefore does not provide information on males.
Multiple domains of risk factors in early adolescence are prospectively associated with first-onset DD and chronic/recurrent DD. A smaller subset of risk factors uniquely contributing to first onsets may represent core vulnerabilities for adolescent-onset depression and promising prevention targets.