Background: Although techniques such as latent class analysis have been used to derive empirically based subtypes of depression in adult samples, there is limited information on subtypes of depression in youth. Aims: To identify empirically based subtypes of depression in a nationally representative sample of US adolescents, and to test the comparability of subtypes of depression in adolescents with those derived from a nationally representative sample of adults. Method: Respondents included 912 adolescents and 805 adults with a 12-month major depressive disorder, selected from the National Comorbidity Survey Adolescent Supplement and the National Comorbidity Survey Replication samples respectively. Latent class analysis was used to identify subtypes of depression across samples. Sociodemographic and clinical correlates of derived subtypes were also examined to establish their validity. Results: Three subtypes of depression were identified among adolescents, whereas four subtypes were identified among adults. Two of these subtypes displayed similar diagnostic profiles across adolescent and adult samples (P=0.43); these subtypes were labelled 'severe typical' (adults 45%, adolescents 35%) and 'atypical' (adults 16%, adolescents 26%). The latter subtype was characterised by increased appetite and weight gain. Conclusions: The structure of depression observed in adolescents is highly similar to the structure observed in adults. Longitudinal research is necessary to evaluate the stability of these subtypes of depression across development.