A new study in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry says nearly 15 percent of preschoolers have high levels of depression and anxiety.    

Their investigation also said depressed pre-schoolers were more likely to have mothers with a history of depression.   So is that actual depression or learned social behavior that seems like depression?

Being a kid is not easy, of course, despite what parents think.   But is finding pre-school depression in high numbers due to better diagnosis or, in the cases of rampant ADD prescriptions in the 1990s, a new field looking for patients?   If it's better diagnosis, finding it earlier may be a help.   

Unfortunately, 'difficult temperament' in ages as young as five months was the factor they primarily used to qualify a child as suffering depression and anxiety.    Labelling cranky babies as clinically depressed will cause concerned parents to start medication, which can lead to other problems.   And the determinations of crankiness were made by mothers, whose history of depression was the second most likely factor in finding depression.  Depressed mothers tended to describe babies that also qualified as depressed and some others were cranky? 

As part of the investigation, the scientists annually evaluated a representative sample of pre-schoolers from five months to five years of age. All 1,758 children were born in Québec and mothers provided information during extensive interviews on behavior and family members. 

"We found that lifetime maternal depression was the second most important predictor of atypically high depressive and anxiety problems during preschool years," stresses first author Sylvana M. Côté, a professor at the Université de Montréal's Department of Social and Preventive Medicine. "Our study is the first to show that infant temperament and lifetime maternal depression can lead to a high trajectory of depressive and anxiety problems before school entry.

"It is critical that preventive interventions be experimented with infants who risk developing depressive and anxiety disorders.  Health professionals should target such high risk children at infancy, as well as their parents, to have a long-term impact on their well-being."

The study was conducted in Canada by an international team of researchers from the Université de Montréal, the Université Laval and McGill University, as well as Inserm (Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale) in France, Carnegie Mellon University in the U.S. and University College Dublin in Ireland.