How do childhood relationships and experiences affect the likelihood of being depressed in adult life?

Answered by: Myrna Weissman

There's some very interesting data here. In the Freudian days, depression was all about early childhood, and then I think we lost sight of that with the spectacular introduction of medication. But now we're coming around to seeing the importance of the gene/environment interaction.

There are some data that show that children who have been abused or who have had very difficult relationships at home are more vulnerable to depression, particularly if they carry the genetic vulnerability.

This is what makes psychotherapy very important, because you can't intervene in genes but you can help the person cope with their environment.

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Myrna Weissman, Ph.D.
Diane Goldman Kemper Family Professor of Epidemiology and Psychiatry 

Dr. Weissman is a Professor of Epidemiology and Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons and the School of Public Health at Columbia University and Chief of the Department in Clinical-Genetic Epidemiology at New York State Psychiatric institute. Until 1987, she was a Professor of Psychiatry and Epidemiology at Yale University School of Medicine and Director of the Depression Research Unit. She was a Visiting Senior Scholar (1979-1980) at the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C. In 1974, she received a Ph.D. in chronic disease epidemiology from Yale Univer...
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