, Volume 15, Issue 7, pp 383-391,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 07 Apr 2006

The effect of birth-weight with genetic susceptibility on depressive symptoms in childhood and adolescence


Low birth-weight has been associated with depression and related outcomes in adults, and with problem behaviours in children. This study aimed to examine the association between low birth-weight for gestation and depressive symptoms in children and adolescents and to examine whether the relationship is moderated by genetic risk for depression. An epidemiological, genetically sensitive design was used including 2,046 twins aged 8–17 years (1,023 families). Data were obtained by parental report and analysed using regression analysis. A small but significant association between birth-weight for gestation and early depressive symptoms was observed. The unit increase in depressive symptoms per unit decrease in birth-weight for gestation was greater for individuals at genetic or familial risk for depression. For low birth-weight children, genetic risk for depression moderated the influence of birth-weight for gestation in predicting early depressive symptoms. Birth-weight for gestation is moderated by genetic and familial risk for depression in influencing early depression symptoms. These observations have clinical implications in that the impact of being small for gestational age on depressive symptoms is greater in children at familial/genetic risk although the association between birth weight and depression does not imply causality.