Premorbid risk for major depressive disorder (MDD) and predictors of an earlier onset and recurrent course were examined in two studies in a large, community-based sample of parents and offspring, prospectively assessed from late childhood into adulthood. In Study 1 (N = 2,764 offspring and their parents), parental psychiatric status, offspring personality at age 11, and age 11 offspring internalizing and externalizing symptoms predicted the subsequent development of MDD, as did poor quality parent-child relationships, poor academic functioning, early pubertal development, and childhood maltreatment by age 11. Parental MDD and adult antisocial behavior, offspring negative emotionality and disconstraint, externalizing symptoms, and childhood maltreatment predicted an earlier onset of MDD, after accounting for course; lower positive emotionality, trait anxiety, and childhood maltreatment predicted recurrent MDD, after accounting for age of onset. In Study 2 (N = 7,146), we examined molecular genetic risk for MDD by extending recent reports of associations with glutamatergic system genes. We failed to confirm associations with MDD using either individual single nucleotide polymorphism based tests or gene-based analyses. Overall, results speak to the pervasiveness of risk for MDD, as well as specific risk for early onset MDD; risk for recurrent MDD appears to be largely a function of its often earlier onset.