University of Illinois at Chicago

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Intergenerationally-Transmitted Inhibitory Control as a Risk Factor for Adolescent Depression

posted on 2022-12-01, 00:00 authored by Katie Bessette
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is often a recurrent chronic illness beginning in adolescence associated with enormous personal and societal costs. To identify and prevent conversion to MDD, better elucidation of all factors that increase risk are needed. Current evidence suggests impaired inhibitory control (IC), or the deliberate regulation of dominant, automatic and/or prepotent responses, may be a trait marker of MDD, yet has not been directly tested as a risk marker prior to illness onset. This multisite project leveraged heightened risk for biological daughters of mothers with recurrent major depressive disorder (rMDD, n=44; high-risk, HR, n=44) or a history of internalizing psychopathology (n=14; medium risk, MR, n=16) to assess whether these mothers and daughters had worse IC compared to healthy control (HC, n=54) mothers and low-risk (LR, n=60) daughters. Following symptom and diagnostic assessments, participants completed the self-report Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF) (n = 232) and the Parametric Go/No-Go/Stop (PGNGS; n = 189) to assess subjective and objective measures of IC. We hypothesized rMDD mothers and HR daughters would report greater daily IC difficulties, make more inaccurate responses to No-Go lures, and respond faster when committing an error to Stop lures. Consistent with study hypotheses, rMDD mothers and HR daughters endorsed more daily IC difficulties, although within the normative range. We did not observe hypothesized IC-specific performance errors and faster reaction times. Instead, rMDD mothers demonstrated worse accuracy for No-Go and Stop target trials and Stop null trials, and were slower when inaccurately responding to null trials. Similarly, HR daughters were less accurate to No-Go null trials, and were slower when inaccurately responding to Go null trials. Current depressive symptoms increased both mothers’ and daughters’ likelihood of endorsing inhibition difficulties and decreased responsivity on the PGNGS. Together, the results do not support IC as a specific risk marker for depression but suggest broader cognitive control difficulties evident in both youth at-risk for depression and their mothers. Refinement of when, where, and how these more general cognitive difficulties occur in high-risk populations will aid MDD prevention efforts.



Mermelstein, Robin J


Mermelstein, Robin J



Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Degree name

PhD, Doctor of Philosophy

Committee Member

Roitman, Jamie Demos, Alexander P Burkhouse, Katie L Pliskin, Neil H Langenecker, Scott A

Submitted date

December 2022

Thesis type



  • en

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