Face emotion processing in depressed children and adolescents with and without comorbid conduct disorder

Karen Schepman, Eric Taylor, Stephan Collishaw, Eric Fombonne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Studies of adults with depression point to characteristic neurocognitive deficits, including differences in processing facial expressions. Few studies have examined face processing in juvenile depression, or taken account of other comorbid disorders. Three groups were compared: depressed children and adolescents with conduct disorder (n=23), depressed children and adolescents without conduct disorder (n=29) and children and adolescents without disorder (n=37). A novel face emotion processing experiment presented faces with 'happy', 'sad', 'angry', or 'fearful' expressions of varying emotional intensity using morphed stimuli. Those with depression showed no overall or specific deficits in facial expression recognition accuracy. Instead, they showed biases affecting processing of lowintensity expressions, more often perceiving these as sad. In contrast, non-depressed controls more often misperceived low intensity negative emotions as happy. There were no differences between depressed children and adolescents with and without conduct disorder, or between children with comorbid depression/conduct disorder and controls. Face emotion processing biases rather than deficits appear to distinguish depressed from non-depressed children and adolescents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)583-593
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Comorbidity
  • Depression
  • Emotion processing
  • Face expressions
  • Neurocognitive

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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