Researchers say that for some very young children, what looks like what age does preschool start may actually be something more. Kiran didn’t seem like the type of kid parents should worry about. Unlike other children in his suburban St.
For one thing, unlike your typical joyful and carefree 4-year-old, Kiran didn’t have a lot of fun. Over time, especially in comparison with Kiran’s even-keeled younger sister, it became apparent that guilt and worry infused Kiran’s thoughts. He wouldn’t dare count aloud until he had perfected getting to 10. One weekend when he was 4, Kiran carried his blanket around as his mother ferried him from one child-friendly place to the next, trying to divert him. Louis’s children’s museum, he was listless and leaned against the wall.
When they got home, he lay down and said he couldn’t remember anything fun about the whole day. After talks with the director of Kiran’s preschool, who was similarly troubled by his behavior, and a round of medical Googling, Kiran’s parents took him to see a child psychiatrist. Is it really possible to diagnose such a grown-up affliction in such a young child? And is diagnosing clinical depression in a preschooler a good idea, or are children that young too immature, too changeable, too temperamental to be laden with such a momentous label? The answer, according to recent research, seems to be earlier than expected. For adults who have known depression, however, the prospect of early diagnosis makes sense.
Kiran’s mother had what she now recognizes was childhood depression. Had therapy been available to her then, she imagines that she would have leapt at the chance. My parents knew my behavior wasn’t right, but they really didn’t know what to do. So Klein turned to the study of temperament and depressive tendencies in young children. About a decade later, he is one of several academics focusing on preschool depression. The history of mental illness has been, in many ways, an ongoing lowering of the bar to entry. Depression was originally seen as an adult problem with origins in childhood, rather than something that existed in children.
Controversy over whether major depression could occur in teenagers, something we now take as a given, persisted until the 1980s. Still, in 1990, when Luby first broached the subject of whether children could be depressed even before they entered school, her colleagues’ reactions ranged from disinterest to hostility. Then in the late ’90s, the study of early childhood entered a kind of vogue among academics and policy makers. And that’s where we are today. The issue of diagnosis of depression in preschoolers is being looked at very carefully right now.