, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 29-44

The social behavior of depressed children: An observational study

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Abstract

Few investigations have examined directly the psychosocial functioning of depressed children. In the present study, 20 depressed and 20 nondepressed fourth-and fifth-grade children were observed in free play during their recess period at school, and their self-perceptions were assessed in subsequent individual sessions. The 10 boys and 10 girls in each group were selected according to their scores on both the Child Depression Inventory and the Peer Nomination Inventory of Depression. Analyses conducted on the eight categories of behavioral observations revealed significant differences between the social behavior of the depressed and the nondepressed children. Although the depressed children made more overtures for social contact than did the nondepressed children and were approached by other children more frequently, they spent more time alone and engaged in a higher frequency of negative interactions with their peers. Consistent with these results, the depressed children's responses to the Self-Perception Profile for Children indicated that they experienced themselves as less socially competent in general, as well as less competent across several specific domains of functioning. These findings are discussed as they relate to developmental processes, theories of adult depression, and recent studies on socially isolated children, and directions for future research in this area are offered.

This research was supported in part by Grants MA-8574 from the Medical Research Council of Canada and OMHF No. 923-85/87 from the Ontario Mental health Foundation to the second author.