After participating in this activity, learners should be better able to:
• Discuss whether prepubertal depression shows longitudinal continuity with depression in adulthood.
• Summarize existing literature on adult emotional and functional outcomes of prepubertal depression and internalizing problems.
Adolescent- and young adult–onset depression are common, recurrent, and can cause significant distress and psychosocial impairment across the life span, but recognition of prepubertal internalizing problems and depression, along with their prevalence, clinical course, and long-term outcomes, remains elusive.
To examine whether prepubertal depression, which can manifest differently from adult depression, shows longitudinal continuity with depression in adulthood, and to summarize existing literature on adult emotional and functional outcomes of prepubertal depression and internalizing problems.
A scoping review was conducted for peer-reviewed cohort articles published between 2000 and 2020 using PubMed and PsycINFO. From 4309 identified references, 17 articles were included.
Prepubertal depression confers increased risk of recurrence of depression in adulthood, with similar findings for prepubertal internalizing problems. No studies found prepubertal depression or internalizing problems predicting adult substance abuse, and no studies asked about adult bipolar diagnoses. More research is needed to draw clear conclusions regarding their implications for other psychiatric, medical, or psychosocial outcomes.
The reviewed studies provide limited evidence that prepubertal depression onset predicts adult depression. The small evidence base and heterogeneous methodological assessments may limit, however, the ability to draw meaningful conclusions about the long-term course of prepubertal-onset depression. Well-designed studies with longer follow-up and multiple assessments in adulthood are needed to clarify and assess the potential effects of prepubertal depression on adult health and functioning. This information will eventually become available as the samples in recently initiated longitudinal cohort studies of children mature further.