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Based on Research by Gillham, Jane E., Reivich, K.J., Jaycox, L.H., & Seligman, M.E.P. (1995). Written by the Psychological Association, adapted by Juanita N. Baker, Ph.D..
Can children experience a major depressive episode? Yes, 20% do before graduating from high school.
Psychologists Jane Gillham, and colleagues attempted to prevent depression by testing whether teaching new thinking patterns protects children from depression. Half of those 5th and 6th grade children who scored ‘at risk’ on depression screening met in small groups weekly for 12 weeks to learn new prevention skills. They focused on the interpersonal problems commonly experienced by children. They learned how to identify their own negative beliefs about themselves, others, and the world, and how to replace their pessimistic beliefs with more optimistic ones. They understood that failures and setbacks are temporary, instead of permanent; as specific to a time and place circumstance, rather than due to any personal defect. The students practiced techniques for coping with parental conflict, enhancing their assertiveness, and relaxing.
Six months after training, children with new skills had fewer depressive symptoms and better classroom behavior than children in the control group. Even two years afterwards, they were half as likely to have moderate to severe symptoms of depression as children in the control group!
If your child has depression, a child psychologist can also provide the same skills for your child in individual therapy.
Jaycox, L. H., Reivich, K. J., Gillham, J. & Seligman, M. E. P. (1994). Prevention of depressive symptoms in school children. Behaviour Research and Therapy, Vol. 32, pp. 801-816.
Gillham, J. E., Reivich, K. J., Jaycox, L. H., & Seligman, M. E. P. (1995). Prevention of depressive symptoms in school children: Two-year follow up. Psychological Science, Vol. 6, pp. 343-351.
Seligman, M. E. P., Reivich, K., Jaycox, L., & Gillham, J. (1995). The optimistic child. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co.
Seligman, M. E. P., Schulman, P., DuRubeis, R. J., & Hollen, S. D. (1999). The prevention of depression and anxiety. Prevention and Treatment, 2.
For more details see:
American Psychological Association, October 27, 2003
These research findings led to the development of the Penn Resiliency Program, which was named after the University of Pennsylvania, where the original research was conducted. This innovative program has proven effective in reducing depressive symptoms among students of various ages and ethnicities. School systems in California, New Jersey, Texas, Minnesota, New York, and Illinois have adopted this program to prevent depression and improve classroom behavior among their students. Cities in China, Canada, and Australia are also trying out the program.