Depression is among the most prevalent and costly of all psychiatric disorders. A pressing public health need is to identify factors that play a role in increasing individuals'vulnerability to depression. Offspring of parents with depression are at heightened risk for the development of this disorder. Consequently, assessing these children is of critical importance in elucidating factors and mechanisms associated with this risk. The proposed integrative project is designed to examine biological, cognitive, and psychosocial factors and mechanisms that may elevate the risk for psychopathology in never-disordered 11 - to14-year-old daughters of mothers with a history of recurrent Major Depressive Disorder. We will compare the functioning of this group of girls with that of daughters in two additional age-matched groups: formerly depressed daughters of recurrent depressed mothers, and never-disordered daughters of mothers with no history of psychopathology. We propose to assess two broad constructs that are of critical importance in understanding the increased risk for psychopathology of daughters of depressed mothers: (1) the daughters'perception and evaluation of stressors in their environment, which determine their immediate response to the stressors;and (2) the daughters'regulatory skills in response to the stressors, which determine the long-term consequences of exposure to the stressors. Our study is unique in combining brain imaging techniques, measurement of both diurnal and reactive cortisol levels, assessment of information-processing biases, and self-report measures to assess emotion dysregulation and stress reactivity in daughters of depressed mothers. Working from a diathesis-stress perspective, we will administer stress- and mood-induction procedures prior to assessing the constructs of interest. We will also conduct an 18-month follow-up assessment to examine whether difficulties in stress reactivity and emotion regulation assessed in a nondepressed state predict the onset and/or the recurrence of depressive episodes. These data promise to help us gain a more comprehensive understanding of the interplay of stress reactivity, neuroendocrine functioning, emotion regulation, cognitive processes, and patterns of neural reactivity in placing children of depressed mothers at elevated risk for affective disorder, and will identify critical areas of dysfunction that may serve as targets for prevention programs.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Biobehavioral Mechanisms of Emotion, Stress and Health Study Section (MESH)
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Garvey, Marjorie A
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Stanford University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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