Understanding Familial Risk for Depression: A 25-Year Perspective

Ian H. Gotlib, Jutta Joormann, Lara C. Foland-Ross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Major depressive disorder (MDD) is among the most prevalent, debilitating, and costly of all illnesses worldwide. Investigators have made considerable progress in elucidating psychological and biological correlates of MDD; however, far less is known about factors that are implicated in risk for depression. Given the high risk for MDD associated with a family history of depression, investigators have worked to understand both the effects of parental depression on offspring and the mechanisms that might underlie familial risk for MDD. In this article, we describe the evolution of investigators' understanding of the psychobiological functioning of children of depressed parents, and we present recent findings concerning cognitive and neural aspects of risk for MDD using our high-risk sample as a context and foundation for this discussion. We integrate these data in a conceptualization of mechanisms underlying risk for depression, focusing on the constructs of emotion dysregulation and stress reactivity. Recognizing the 25-year anniversary of the Association for Psychological Science, we place this presentation in the context of the past 25 years of research on depression. We conclude by discussing the significance of emotion dysregulation and stress reactivity for studying risk for depression, for developing approaches to prevent MDD, and for moving theory and research in this field forward.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)94-108
Number of pages15
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • brain activation
  • cognition
  • depression
  • emotion regulation
  • risk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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