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Our completed studies (most recent to old):  


PRODO: Primary Prevention of Depression in Offspring of Depressed Parents

Since the children of parents who have depression are at greatest risk of developing depression themselves, prevention programmes for this population are a major public health priority. The PRODO study was a randomised controlled trial (RCT) of a family- and group-based CBT prevention program for offspring of parents with depression. We translated and adapted the prevention program Raising Healthy Children (Compas et al., 2009) to the German language and culture. We included children and adolescents (aged 8-17) who have no history of psychiatric disorder and their parents. After the baseline assessment, families are randomised to either the prevention intervention or  usual care control condition.  The intervention consisted of 8 weekly and 4 monthly sessions in groups of 3-4 families based on three modules: Psychoeducation about parental depression, Coping Strategies for children and Parenting training. Follow-up assessments took place at post-intervention, 9- and 15- months after baseline. Assessments include semi-strcutured clinical interviews with parents and child and questionnaires assessing psychopathology, knowledge of depression, cognitive and emotional factors as well as parenting style. Our hypothesis was that in comparison to the control group who receive no intervention, participants in the experimental group will show a reduced risk of depression as indexed by fewer cases of a depressive episode at 15 months follow-up and fewer psychopathological symptoms at 9- and 15-month follow-up. We are in the process of publishing our findings.


KROKO study: Consequence or risk factor: What role do cognitive biases play in child and adolescent depression?

From studies in adults we know that depression is associated with cognitive biases at multiple stages of information processing, i.e. attention, interpretation, and memory. These biases are characterized by the automatic tendency to overly focus on negative compared to positive information and might play a role in the development as well as the maintenance of depressive symptoms.

However, it is unknown if cognitive biases represent correlates/consequences of depression or if they are risk factors that are already present before the onset of the disorder and that might contribute to its development.

The KROKO study investigated both attention and interpretation biases in depressed children and adolescents (age 9-14 years) in comparison to non-depressed children and adolescents with either a high or a low risk for depression. One aim of the study was to further characterise cognitive biases in youth affected by depression. The other aim was to figure out if cognitive biases represent consequences or risk factors by comparing the depressed group with a high-risk group (children of depressed parents hat have not suffered from depression yet).

Cognitive biases were assessed with several behavioural and eye-tracking tasks. The results have recently been published


GENERAIN/GENERAIN-30: The transmission of depression from parent to child: a trans-generational study of attention and interpretation biases

Various biological, psychological, and social factors play a role in the transmission of depression from parents to their children. However, the mechanisms by which these factors interact are relatively understudied. The GENERAIN study investigated how biases in attention (the way images appear to us) and interpretation (the way we interpret events) are passed on from parent to child. In order to do this we recruited two groups of families: those in which at least one parent has suffered from depression, and those in which neither parent has suffered from depression. In both groups children were aged 9-14. In order to measure attention and interpretation biases we collect various behavioural (e.g. reaction-time) and eye-tracking measures while participants complete tasks on a computer. The main study findings have been published and we are currently analysing data which investigate the extent to which interpretation biases predict the later onset of depressive symptoms.


TADS-in: (inpatient) Treatment for Adolescents With Depression Study

In 1999, the National Institute of Mental Health funded the Treatment for Adolescents With Depression Study (TADS). This randomized, controlled trial demonstrated the effectiveness of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in treating adolescent depression. The TADS manual was developed and evaluated for the outpatient setting yet many adolescents in Germany receive inpatient treatment for depression. The aim of the current study was to develop and test the feasibility of an adaptation of the TADS manual for the inpatient setting (TADS-in). The participants of the study were teenagers over 13 years, who were in inpatient treatment for depression in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the LMU University Hospital of Munich. The manual treatment consisted of 6 weekly sessions with the participant, 2 sessions with the participant and his/her parents and 2 sessions with the parents. In addition to the manual, the patient had an additional weekly session with a psychotherapist. Before treatment a clinical diagnostic interview is conducted with the patient to assess eligibility for the study. The participant (and their caregiver) then completes measures of depression severity before, after and every week during the manual treatment phase. Where possible the diagnostic instrument is administered at the the end of treatment. This pre-post pilot study was designed to provide the foundations for a larger-scale randomised controlled trial (RCT) of the manual. The results of the study have been published.