August 13, 2018
2 min read

Treating youth depression may benefit parents’ mental health

You've successfully added to your alerts. You will receive an email when new content is published.

Click Here to Manage Email Alerts

We were unable to process your request. Please try again later. If you continue to have this issue please contact

Research presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association found that parental depressive symptoms improved during treatment for adolescent depression.

“Despite an understanding from a developmental psychopathology and family systems perspective that children's behavior influences parental and family functioning, there has been little research examining the effect that child and adolescent depression might have on parents' emotional and psychological wellbeing,” Kelsey R. Howard, MS, doctoral student at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told Healio Psychiatry.

“We believe that understanding the relationship between child and parent mood from both directions (and exploring transactional effects) is important to promote family-wide wellbeing,” she continued. “Additionally, considering and promoting parental mental health may ultimately improve parenting, parent-child relationships, and child wellbeing.”

Limited research exists on whether treatment of parents’ or children’s mood impacts other family members’ depressive symptomatology, according to researchers. The current study looked at whether parental depressive symptoms improve over the course of adolescent depression treatment and whether improvement in their child’s depression would be tied to improvement in parental depression.

Parental depressive symptoms improved during treatment for adolescent depression, according to research presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association.

Researchers evaluated 325 parents of teenagers aged 12 to 17 years at baseline participating in the Treatment for Adolescents with Depression Study. Adolescents were randomly allocated to receive 36 weeks of active treatment with cognitive behavioral therapy, fluoxetine or combination of the two with 1 year of follow-up. Parents completed the Beck Depression Inventory at six study visits and teens’ depressive symptoms were measured via the Children’s Depressive Rating Scale, Revised.

Howard and colleagues found that parental depressive symptoms improved during their child’s depression treatment. Results from linear mixed effects models that used time as an independent variable and parental Beck Depression Inventory as a dependent variable indicated significant improvement in parental depressive symptoms over time (P < .001).

“Our study's preliminary analyses revealed that approximately one-quarter (22%) of parents in our sample reported moderate to severe depressive symptoms based on the Beck Depression Inventory at the start of the study,” Howard said. “We believe this emphasizes a need for clinicians treating youth to consider assessing parental mood. This may be an excellent opportunity for clinicians to provide referrals for parents to receive their own treatment when it is indicated.”

Analysis also showed that improvement in adolescent depression was significantly linked to improvement in parental depression (P < .01). However, when accounting for improvement in youth depression, the effect of time was no longer significant. In addition, type of treatment was not significantly tied to improvement in parental depression.

“Our findings support the utility of considering the family context and family relationships when treating depressed youth. We believe these findings are a step towards considering the broader context of youth in treatment, including their relationships,” Howard told Healio Psychiatry. “Finally, clinicians working with parents may wish to include parent-child relationships and child functioning as part of their case conceptualization.” – by Savannah Demko


Howard KR, et al. Parental depressive symptoms over the course of treatment for adolescent depression. Presented at: American Psychological Association Annual Convention; Aug. 9-12, 2018; San Francisco.

Disclosure: Healio Psychiatry could not confirm relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.