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Why Research on Children With Depression Is So Important

3 Reasons that Depression Research in Children Is Essential


Updated September 20, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Research on children with depression can be a frightening thought when it comes to your own child. Many parents, children, and even researchers are hesitant about enrolling children in depression research or clinical trials for a variety of reasons. However, the importance of depression research tailored just for children cannot be overstated.

Reasons Why It Is Important for a Child to Be Included In Research

1. Children Are Different Than Adults

This is obvious in many ways, especially when it comes to health. It is important that each new treatment, whether it is a drug, psychotherapy, or medical device, is tested on the type of person that it is intended for. So, in the case of an antidepressant medication for children, it is essential that it has been tested on children with established cases of depression.

Children and adults have physical differences that can sometimes make adult medications inappropriate for a child to use. In order to find the most effective child depression treatments, research on depressed children is needed.

2. Childhood Depression Is Not the Same as Adult Depression

While many symptoms of adult and childhood depression are similar, many differences appear between the two as well. Depressed children often have high levels of irritability and unexplained physical symptoms. Also, children do not have the same cognitive abilities as adults do, which means that depression assessments, diagnostic interviews, and therapies need to be tailored for their development level.

3. Finding New and Better Treatments is Essential

As the field of knowledge on childhood depression increases, so does the need for new and better treatments. The only way to be sure that treatments are safe and effective is to conduct controlled research.

While the potential of research on your child may seem like a frightening experience, several studies have shown that many parents and children actually felt good about participating in research, either because the experience was positive or they felt that they potentially helped others.

Safeguards exist to protect children in research and decrease the burden of time and energy spent on participation. While you and your child should never feel obligated or coerced into participating in research, take the time to explore the possibility and make a decision that you are both comfortable with.


Benedetto Vitiello, MD, Michael G. Aman, Ph.D., Lawrence Scahill, Ph.D., James T. McCracken, MD., Christopher J. McDougle, MD., Elaine Tierney, MD., Mark Davies, MPH, and Eugene Arnold, MD. Research Knowledge Among Parents of Children Participating in a Randomized Clinical Trial. Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. February 2005. 44(2).

Jeremy Sugarman, MD, MPH, MAS. Determining the Appropriateness of Including Children in Clinical Research. How Thick Is the Ice? The Journal of the American Medical Association. 2004. 291(4): 494-496.

Tracy Hampton, PhD. Pediatric Drug Trials Required By Law. Medical News & Perspectives. Journal of the American Medical Association. January 28, 2004. 291(4): 411-412.

  1. About.com
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  3. Depression
  4. Who's at Risk?
  5. Age Groups
  6. Child Depression
  7. Childhood Depression Research
  8. The Importance of Research on Children With Depression

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