Do better executive functions buffer the effect of current parental depression on adolescent depressive symptoms?

Davidovich, Shiri, Collishaw, Stephan, Thapar, Ajay K, Harold, Gordon, Thapar, Anita and Rice, Frances (2016) Do better executive functions buffer the effect of current parental depression on adolescent depressive symptoms? Journal of Affective Disorders, 199. pp. 54-64. ISSN 0165-0327

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Offspring of parents with a history of major depressive disorder (MDD) and especially those exposed to a current episode of parental depression have been found to be at increased risk for developing depression themselves. Exposure to a current parental depressive episode also reduces the efficacy of interventions in high risk or depressed adolescents. This highlights the need to identify protective factors for adolescents exposed to a current parental depressive episode. Executive functions serve as an important cognitive resource, involved in the ability to regulate mood and thoughts and cope with stressful events. This study examined the buffering role of two components of executive functioning, inhibitory control and mental flexibility, in the association between a current parental episode of MDD and adolescent depressive symptoms.


A high-risk sample of 288 adolescent offspring of parents with recurrent major depressive disorder completed an Affective Go/No Go and a Verbal Fluency task. Parents and adolescents underwent psychiatric interviews.


In the presence of a current parental depressive episode in the parent, adolescents with better inhibitory control and mental flexibility had fewer depressive symptoms after controlling for age, gender and IQ.


Participants were the offspring of depressed parents and it is not clear whether the protective effects of executive functioning observed here would generalise to other populations.


Executive functions may protect against adolescent depression in the presence of a parental depressive episode. It may be beneficial to target executive functions in preventive programs for individuals at high-risk for depression.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Depression, Adolescence, Executive functions, High-risk, Cognitive, Resilience
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion
Depositing User: Lene Hyltoft
Date Deposited: 07 Jun 2016 16:09
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2019 22:04

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