Early pubertal timing predicts onset and recurrence of depressive episodes in boys and girls

Elissa J. Hamlat, Kathleen C. McCormick, Jami F. Young, Benjamin L. Hankin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Recurrent depressive episodes during adolescence result in significant impairment and increased risk for subsequent adverse outcomes throughout the life span. Evidence suggests that early pubertal timing predicts the onset of depressive episodes (particularly for girls); however, it is not known if pubertal timing prospectively predicts recurrent depressive episodes in youth. Methods: At baseline, 603 youth (56% female, at baseline: Mage = 12.09, SD = 2.35) reported on their pubertal development. Youth and their parents completed a semistructured diagnostic interview to assess depressive episodes at baseline and then evaluated for onset repeatedly every 6 months for a period of 36 months. Results: Controlling for past history of depression, Cox proportional hazards models examined whether earlier pubertal timing predicted (a) days to first depressive episode from baseline and (b) days to a second (recurrent) depressive episode from the end of the first episode. Early pubertal timing predicted the onset of the first depressive episode after baseline (b =.19, Wald = 5.36, p =.02, HR = 1.21), as well as a recurrent episode during course of study follow-up episode (b =.32, Wald = 6.16, p =.01, HR = 1.38). Conclusions: Findings reinforce the importance of considering the impact of early pubertal timing on depression risk. Investigation on how pubertal timing interacts with other risk factors to predict depression recurrence is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1266-1274
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020


  • Depression
  • puberty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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