Can Early Behavior in Childhood Predict Adult Depression and Suicidal Attempts?

child depression

Studies have shown that it is possible for disruptive behavioral problems in children and adolescents to cause several types of emotional and behavioral problems such as depression and anxiety in adulthood. Adult depression may be caused by behavioral problems in childhood such as temper tantrums, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional, defiant or conduct disorders. Moreover, children who suffer from negative self-esteem, loss of motivation, problems keeping up academically and resistance to going to school may experience depression in later stages of their lives when they become adults.

Chronic feelings of sadness an worthlessness, reduced interest in activities, reduced feelings of looking forward to things, sudden changes in weight, and shifts in sleep patterns, sluggishness, and harsh self-assessment are examples of behaviors in the adult that can lead to the development of depression in the late stages of life.

It is also possible for children who had been bullied to develop a high risk of depression and anxiety disorders in adulthood. In essence, the higher the frequency of childhood bullying, the worse the adult outcomes such as increased frequency of depression and anxiety. Klomek and colleagues concluded that the long-term effects of childhood bullying were found even after controlling for preexisting psychopathology.

The relationship between adverse childhood experiences and suicidality in adulthood has been studied by Fuller-Thomson and colleagues. The scientists discovered that mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and chronic pain accounted for some of the relationships between childhood trauma and adult suicidality. Although very little has been written about childhood depression, but converging lines of evidence suggest that adult depression begins in childhood. It has been estimated that about one (1) of eleven (11) children experience some form of depression by the time they are fourteen (14) years old.

According to the NMHA, the following behaviors in childhood may lead to depression in the adult:

Frequent sadness, tearfulness, or crying

Feelings of hopelessness

Withdrawal from friends and activities

Lack of enthusiasm or motivation

Feelings of worthlessness and guilt

Over-sensitivity to rejection and failure

Excessive patterns of dark images in paintings

Play that involves excessive aggression directed toward oneself or others, or involves persistently sad themes

Recurring thoughts or talk of death, suicide, or self-destructive behavior

Lowered level of energy

Major changes in eating or sleeping habits

Increased irritability, agitation, anger, or hostility

Frequent physical complaints such as headaches and stomach aches

Indecision or inability to concentrate

Reducing the risk factors for childhood depression will prevent the development of depression and other mental health problems in the adult. The risk factors for depression in childhood are mostly environmental. Furthermore, it is possible for children of depressed parents to be more likely to experience depression when they become adults.