Failure to maintain set as a predictor of childhood depression within a children's psychiatric inpatient sample

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Despite a wealth of studies in adults and adolescents, only a handful of studies have examined executive function in childhood depression. This study utilized retrospective chart review of a children's psychiatric inpatient program to evaluate executive function via Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST) in 33 children (6–12 years old) with a depressive disorder and 61 age/sex-matched children without a depressive disorder referred for neuropsychological evaluation. WCST categories, perseverative errors, and failure to maintain set errors were examined as potential predictors of depressive disorder diagnosis and self-reported depressive symptoms. After controlling for age, length of hospital stay, and ADHD, failure to maintain set significantly predicted depressive disorder diagnosis. Failure to maintain set was also significantly associated with self-reported depressive symptoms. Current findings provide preliminary evidence to suggest that failure to maintain set may reflect a core deficit of childhood depression. While findings are preliminary, this may have important implications for the diagnosis and treatment of childhood depression.

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Psychiatry Research