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Internalizing Behaviors and Depression

Depressed Children May Display Self Directed Symptoms


Updated September 20, 2011

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

Internalizing behaviors are common among depressed children. These behaviors are "quiet" and are generally not disruptive to others.

A child with internalizing symptoms keeps her feelings, like sadness and guilt, inside, which may manifest itself in such symptoms as:

Due to the quiet nature of internalizing symptoms, children may not receive treatment as quickly as those with more disruptive, or externalizing symptoms.

In general, girls display more internalizing symptoms than boys do.

Not all children with internalizing symptoms are depressed. In fact, internalizing symptoms are often associated with anxiety and somatic disorders as well.

However, it is generally thought that a child who displays internalizing symptoms but who does not yet meet the criteria for depression is at a much higher risk for developing it in the future.

If your child is showing internalizing symptoms, talk to a mental health professional, as they may be a sign of depression or an indication of future mental illness.


Leslie D. Leve, Hyoun K. Kim, and Katherine, C. Childhood Temperament and Family Environment as Predictors of Internalizing and Externalizing Trajectories from Age 5 to 17. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. October 2005; 33(5): 505-520.

Reynolds, William M. Introduction of the Nature and Study of Internalizing Disorders in Children and Adolescents. School Psychology Review. 1990; 19(2): 137.

Tawnyea L. Bolme-Lake. Predicting Internalizing Problems in At-Risk Children and Adolescents. Dissertation. Dissertation.com; 2007.

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