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In recent years, childhood depression has received a lot of attention as researchers have tried to unravel how the disorder affects kids. But little is known about if, and how, depression strikes very young children. A new study suggests that children as young as 3 can be diagnosed with depression and that the disorder is often a chronic condition.

The study, which appears in the August issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, is sure to raise eyebrows among people who question if children that young are emotionally mature enough to be depressed. The study's authors say that despite skepticism, a growing body of research suggests that depression does exist among preschoolers and they launched the study to better understand it.

The authors studied 306 children 3 to 6 years old, including 75 of them diagnosed with depression, and evaluated them for up to two years. Preschoolers with depression at the beginning of the study were four times more likely to have depression 12 or 24 months later  than children who were not depressed at the study's start.

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Researchers found depression was more common in children whose mothers were depressed and those who had experienced a traumatic event.  The study underscores the importance of diagnosing depression as early as preschool, the authors say. But the study didn't research treating children so young with medication, for instance, which has been controversial. The authors say more study is needed in this area.

I wonder what parents make of this research. Is it possible to diagnose depression in children so young? And, if so, what is an appropriate treatment for a preschooler?

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photo from stock.xchng

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