Elementary Students with Depression Are More at Risk for Skill Deficits
Early elementary students with symptoms of depression are much more likely to be at risk for academic deficits, according to new research.
Researchers at the University of Missouri (MU) have found that children who show mild to severe symptoms of depression in second and third grades are six times more likely to have skill deficits, such as difficulties with social skills or academics, than children without symptoms. Parents and teachers also had difficulties recognizing depression in children.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that as many as 2 to 3 percent of children ages 6-12 might have major depressive disorder.
“When you ask teachers and parents to rate a child’s level of depression, there is usually only about 5-10 percent overlap in their ratings. For example, the teacher might report that a child has difficulties making friends in class, but the parent might not notice this issue at home,” says Keith Herman, a professor in the MU College of Education.
Herman and education professor Wendy Reinke completed profile analyses of 643 children in early elementary school to explore how patterns between student, teacher, and parent reporting can be used to gain a holistic picture of a child’s mental health.
They found that even though 30 percent of children in the study reported feeling mildly to severely depressed, parents and teachers often failed to recognize the child as depressed. However, teachers and parents were more skilled at identifying other symptoms that might predict long-term risk for depression, such as social problems, inattention, and skill deficits.
There are two important steps to address these concerns, Herman says:
- Mental health professionals can work with teachers and parents to identify depressive symptoms early by including self reports from children in mental health evaluations.
- Screenings also should consider social difficulties, inattention and skill deficits as this might help provide support to at-risk students before they develop further depressive symptoms.