The Longitudinal Association between Self-esteem and Depressive Symptoms in Adolescents: Separating between-person effects from within-person effects
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Description: Many longitudinal studies have investigated whether self-esteem predicts depressive symptoms (vulnerability model) or the other way around (scar model) in adolescents. The most common method of analysis has been the Cross-lagged Panel Model (CLPM). The CLPM does not separate between-person effects from within-person effects, making it unclear whether the results from previous studies actually reflect the within-person effects described in the vulnerability and scar models, or whether they reflect differences between people. We therefore investigated the associations between self-esteem and depressive symptoms at the within-person level, using a Random Intercept Cross-Lagged Panel Model (RI-CLPM). In addition, to get an impression of the magnitude of possible differences between the RI-CLPM and CLPM, we compared the results of both models. We used data from three longitudinal adolescent samples, with an age range of 7-18 years, from three different countries (Study 1: N = 1,948, Study 2: N = 1,455, Study 3: N = 316). Intervals between the measurements were 1 year (Studies 1 and 2) and 1.5 years (Study 3). To interpret the findings from the individual studies we conducted meta-analyses. The meta-analyses showed that across studies, the results yielded support for small within-person associations from self-esteem to depressive symptoms, but not the other way around, thus only providing some support for the vulnerability model. The cross-lagged associations in the aggregated RI-CLPM and CLPM showed similar effect sizes. Overall, our results show that over 1-1.5 year time intervals, low self-esteem may negatively influence depressive symptoms over time within adolescents, but only weakly so.
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