One professor at Binghamton University hopes to identify the causes of mental health problems in children, through studies and research, over the next five years.
Dr. Brandon Gibb, associate professor of psychology, and his colleagues around the country, are set to study 250 children of eight to 14 years, and their mothers, to develop an understanding of variables that can lead to depression.
Gibb said that he has always had a strong interest in depression, because it is everywhere. His interest lies in the severity and causes of depression.
“We’re looking at genetic factors and environmental factors,” Gibb said. In the study, both children of mothers with and without a history of depression will participate.
These two groups will be studied and potentially provide data toward Gibb’s belief that “growing up with a family member with depression is a risk factor,” he said.
The $2.06 million project has received funding for the first two years from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
For the remaining three years, the project will receive funding from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, part of the National Institutes of Health.
According to Gibb, vulnerability to depression develops as early as during one’s childhood, and by adolescence at least one in 20 people will have a history of clinical depression.
Through his research, Gibb has found that during the teen years there are huge increases in the number of depression cases, especially between the ages 13 and 18. It is also twice as likely for a female to be diagnosed with depression than a male.
Gibb intends to figure out how these vulnerabilities to depression develop during childhood, in order to prevent it.
One of Gibb’s students, Marie Grassia, a fifth-year graduate student in the department of clinical psychology, is also interested in how depression develops.
As a part of Gibb’s study, Grassia has administered questionnaires and computer tasks to interview the mothers, and their children, involved in the study.
“I think what is most beneficial about Dr. Gibb’s research is the implications it has for future treatments,” Grassia said. “If we can figure out which children are at greatest risk for developing depression, we can try to improve upon prevention programs, as well as begin treatment for these children earlier.”