Screening for Depression in Parents, at Urban Pediatric Visits

Doctor talking to man holding baby

Depression is highly prevalent among young adults of child-rearing age. The authors sought to determine if it would be feasible and acceptable to screen for parental depression in urban pediatric practices. They recruited seven practices to participate and employed the Patient Health Questionnaire-2, a validated two- item screening tool,  to screen for depressive symptoms when parents accompanied their children at one-to three year old well visits. They also conducted semi-structured interviews with clinicians to identify the barriers to and the factors that facilitate screening.

Of 8,621 eligible parents, 21.1% completed the screening. Among those screened, 8.1% screened positive for depressive symptoms. Electronic alerts showed promise, raising screening rates from 45 per month to 170 per month.

Fifteen clinicians completed interviews and endorsed screening to provide help for families, build stronger ties with parents, and improve outcomes for children. However the authors concluded there are many limiting factors: insufficient time, the need to complete higher-priority activities, the lack of available mental-health treatment, the scarcity of resources for parents with limited English proficiency, and discomfort with addressing the issue of depression. That informaton can be valuable for pediatric practices and policymakers who are interested in developing strategies to screen for depression in parents.


James P. Guevara, MD, MPH, Marsha Gerdes, PhD, Brooke Rothman, MSSP, Victor Igbokidi, MD, Susan Doughterty, PhD, Russell Localio, PhD, and Rhonda C. Boyd, PhD