The GEM Study at the University of Denver

Purpose and Basis of Study
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Purpose and Basis of the Study

Descriptive longitudinal studies have identified three distinct "phases" in the development of depression during childhood and adolescence. First, few preadolescent children develop depression (i.e., prevalence rate of 1-2%). Second, a sex difference in depression rates emerges around middle puberty (i.e., ages 12-13). By age 15 girls are twice as likely as boys to experience depression. Third, rates of depression increase dramatically beginning in middle adolescence from around 3% at age 15 to 17% at age 18. The overarching goal of this project is to advance understanding of the ontogeny of depression over time from childhood through early adolescence from an integrated vulnerability-transactional stress model of depression. We propose to study theoretically motivated questions concerning the development of depression throughout these phases using an accelerated longitudinal cohort design. More specifically, we aim to:
  1. understand the transactional interplay of genetic, cognitive, and interpersonal vulnerabilities with stressors and how these vulnerability and stress processes can combine together to predict growth in depressive symptoms throughout development and onset of depressive episodes in adolescence
  2. elucidate whether the emerging sex difference in depression can be explained by developmental changes in the interplay of psychosocial and genetic vulnerability factors with stressors across time and age, and
  3. investigate reciprocal, transactional associations between stressors and depression over time, across ages and sex, and by vulnerability level. We will follow 3rd, 6th, and 9th graders (n=250 in each cohort; a total of 750 youth), after an initial lab assessment, every 3 months for 3 years (12 follow-up assessments) using a multi-informant (youth, mothers, clinicians) and multi-method (questionnaire, interview, lab-assessments) design.

We will make every effort to protect the rights and personal information of you and your family.
  1. The identities of all our participants are coded by a number, not a name, in order to keep your information confidential. Any paperwork containing your or your child's full name is kept separately in a locked file, and will be destroyed after the study is complete.
  2. All data will be kept in a secured, limited access location. The only people who will have access to data and videotapes will be research staff and other authorized individuals.
  3. Your identity and that of your child will not be revealed in any publication or presentation of the results of this research. Furthermore, once the study is completed, the data and videotapes will be stored in a secure location for archival purposes.
Participation in this study is voluntary. Participants also have the right to change their mind and leave the study at any time.

University of Denver | Genes, Environment, and Mood (GEM) Study | Phone: 303-871-6828 | Email: