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Parental expressed emotion in depressed adolescents: prediction of clinical course and relationship to comorbid disorders and social functioning

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Background: High expressed emotion (EE) predicts worse clinical course for a number of disorders. High EE is more frequent in parents of disordered children than normal controls. It is uncertain whether EE and its components are disorder-specific, whether EE is more closely related to parent characteristics or child characteristics, and whether EE predicts clinical course independently of clinical variables that reflect severity of disorder. EE has not been investigated in adolescent depression. Method: The 57 participants in this study were a sub-sample of a longitudinal study of the clinical course of depression. Adolescents and parents were recruited from consecutive referrals to all psychiatric outpatient clinics and inpatient units in a geographic catchment area. The association between EE and one-year clinical outcome of major depressive disorder was tested and associations between EE and characteristics of the adolescent, the parent, and the family were examined. Results: EE was independent of socio-demographic characteristics, comorbid diagnoses, and parental depression. High EE was associated with worse adolescent social functioning according to either adolescent or parent report. High EE was associated with the presence of more depression symptoms. Low EE predicted major depression remission in participants without comorbid attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but this association was not independent of the association between social functioning and depression remission. Conclusions: The findings indicate a need to examine possible protective effects of low EE. Relationships between EE, social functioning, and depression persistence and remission require further examination.
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Keywords: Adolescence; comorbidity; depression; expressed emotion; family factors; parent–child relationships

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, Canada, 2: McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences Corporation, Canada,

Publication date: July 1, 2002

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