According to the National Institute of Mental Health, childhood depression has been taken more seriously over the last two decades. While no single factor may explain the cause of depression in youth, a number of different theories exist. As with many types of mental illness, a combination of factors usually contributes to the cause of depression. Genetic Factors
As the prevalence of depression occurs at a higher rate for children that have family members who suffer from the disorder, a genetic component likely exists. Drs. Rita Wicks-Nelson and Allen Israel write in "Behavior Disorders of Childhood" that even though genetics play a partial role in the cause of depression, environmental factors influence its development. So while a child may carry a genetic predisposition for depression, what happens to him in life determines whether a problem with the disorder will develop. Sponsored Links
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Dr. Kenneth Merrell writes in "Helping Students Overcome Depression and Anxiety" that little research exists regarding the biological causes of depression in youth. Chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters appear associated with the development of depression. Deficient or excessive amounts of these chemicals may cause depression in children. Additionally, imbalances in hormone levels may have a role in the development of depression in children. Family Influences
Dr. Merrell indicates that problems with a child's family contribute to an increased risk of depression. These include poor communication and conflict-resolution skills, high conflict, violence or abuse and strained family relationships. Drs. Wicks-Nelson and Israel state that children who grow up with a parent suffering from depression possess a higher risk of developing the disorder themselves. Besides the possible presence of a genetic component, the caregiver's depression may affect her ability to parent, or she may unknowingly model thoughts and behaviors associated with depression for her child, thereby increasing the child's risk for depression. Lastly, Drs. Aaron Beck and Albert Alford found in their research that parental loss likely increases the risk of the development of depression in children. Orphaned children were more likely to be depressed than children who continued to reside with biological parents. Psychological Stress and Life Events
Children exposed to traumatic events, abuse or violence have a higher risk for depression. But even when a child undergoes these stressful life events, other factors appear to determine the higher risk of depression. They include levels of social support and the child's level of resiliency. Cognitive Influences
The style of thinking a child adapts to appears to be associated with the development of depression. If a child holds a negative view of self in addition to a poor outlook on the present and future, this pattern of thinking may contribute to a decrease in self-esteem and an increase in feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. In addition, if a child views the world as a scary place in which bad things happen, she is more likely to develop and maintain problems with depression. Behavioral Influences
A number of problematic behaviors may contribute to the development of depression, including self-isolation and withdrawal, poor problem-solving skills and disengagement from fun activities. These patterns of behavior may lead to feelings of loneliness and drops in self-esteem, increasing risks for depression.
Despair among the Young: Adolescent Depression and Violence
Speaking to the issue of violence among youth, Donna E. Shalala, Secretary of Health and Human Services said: "Today, violence is the second leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 15 and 24 - and the leading cause for African Americans in...