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Youth With Social Anxiety, Exposure to Maternal MDD Have Higher Depression Risk

September 23, 2020

Social anxiety symptoms in children exposed to maternal major depressive disorder (MDD) increased children’s risk of developing depressive symptoms over time, according to a study published in the Journal of Adolescence.

“We already know from previous research that children with social anxiety symptoms are at high risk of developing depression, as are offspring of depressed mothers,” said study coauthor Holly Kobezak, BA, lab manager at the Mood Disorders Institute at Binghamton University, New York. “Our findings take what is already known one step further by suggesting that the combination of these risk factors may be even more insidious than the presence of either risk factor alone.”

The study included 250 children aged 8 to 14 years at baseline. Among them, 129 had mothers with a history of MDD during their child’s lifetime and 117 had mothers with no history of MDD. The children completed self-reported measures of social anxiety and depressive symptoms at the study’s start and every 6 months afterward for 2 years.

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Social anxiety predicted increases in depressive symptoms over time, but only in children whose mothers had a history of MDD, according to the study.

“This information is useful because it can help us more precisely identify children at need of early intervention and may lay the groundwork for research that works to identify mechanisms of risk that can be targeted in clinical interventions for this group of children,” Kobezak said.

Depressive symptoms did not predict changes in social anxiety in children with, or without, exposure to maternal MDD, the study found.

—Jolynn Tumolo


Kobezak HM, Gibb BE. Prospective associations between social anxiety and depression in youth: the moderating role of maternal major depressive disorder. Journal of Adolescence. 2020;82:19-22.

Children with social anxiety, maternal history of depression more likely to develop depression [press release]. Binghamton, New York: Binghamton University; September 3, 2020.

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