A Family Depression Prevention Program (FDP)

Depression is a major public health problem affecting over 15 million U.S. adults annually and is especially prevalent in those of parenting age. Offspring of depressed parents are at increased risk of depression and therefore are a critical target for preventive interventions. The current study aims to reduce the rate of depression in parents and their children by adopting an innovative, family-based approach to simultaneously preventing depression in at-risk youth and in their affected parents. The rationale for this approach is based on (a) a conceptual model that integrates parenting processes, stress (particularly that which is associated with parental depression), and children’s self-regulatory skills in the face of stress, (b) evidence that depression runs in families, (c) promising results from family- and child-focused depression prevention programs, (d) evidence that in adults, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) reduces both depressive episodes and their recurrence, and (e) growing consensus among scientists, clinicians, and policymakers on the need for family-based models of healthcare.


Over 15 million adults in the United States are affected by depression. This is especially true during the child-bearing and child-rearing time of life. Children with depressed parents have a greater risk of experiencing depression. Thus, they are a primary target for preventive interventions. This study attempts to reduce the rate of depression in parents and children through an innovative, family-based approach. The rationale for this approach is based on a conceptual model that combines and includes parenting process, stress (particularly associated with parental depression), and the child’s self-regulatory skills when under stress. The study was inspired by evidence that depression runs in families, promising results from family-and-child-focused depression prevention programs, and evidence that adults who are treated through cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) reduce the number of their depressive episodes and recurrence. There is a general consensus on the need for family-based healthcare models among scientists, clinicians, and policymakers.

Study information:

This study is classified as randomized (participants are chosen by chance for treatment). It was a two-site controlled trial. It includes a Family Depression Prevention (FDP) program for children (ages 9 to 15) and their parents who have or had depressive disorders. Their “dual prevention” approach is a novel synthesis of existing evidence-based intervention techniques drawn from child prevention and adult treatment models. Participating families (N=300) are randomized to either the FDP program (12 weekly + 3 monthly sessions) or a written information comparison (WI) condition. All parents and children will be evaluated at pre- and post-intervention, and at 6, 12, 18, and 24 months from baseline.


The sponsor of this study is Vanderbilt University. They are assisted through collaboration with San Diego State University.

Inclusion Criteria:

Children from the age of 9 to 15 were allowed to participate. They must have a parent with a current or history of depressive disorder during the child’s life. Male and female children are allowed to participate.

Exclusion Criteria:

Children or parents diagnosed as bipolar 1 or schizophrenic are not allowed to participate. Neither parent or child can have a current problem with alcohol or drug abuse. Children cannot have a conduct disorder, development disorder, or current diagnosis of depressive disorder.