Between 1 and 3% of children suffer from depression before the age of puberty and this figure rises to 15-20% during adolescence. Early-onset depression can last for a long time, be severe and have high rates of relapse. Relations with one's family can play an important part in triggering and maintaining depression so an approach to therapy which tackles problems within the family could be an important step forward. A small-scale trial of a new approach to family therapy on 8-12 year-old children in Boston has had encouraging results. The intervention aimed to teach family members about depression, teach parents and children the skills to communicate with each other in a positive manner, teach family members problem-solving skills and help family members provide one another with more effective support. By the end of the treatment two-thirds of the young people had recovered from their depression. There were no relapses in the follow-up period and no instances of suicidal behaviour. Parents reported that their children were behaving better and the children themselves reported that they were feeling better too. The researchers called for larger trials on the new techniques.
Tompson, Martha C. ... [et al] - Family-focused treatment for childhood-onset depressive disorders : results of an open trial Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry July 2007, 12(3), 403-420