Ample research has shown that low self-esteem increases the risk to develop depressive symptoms during adolescence. However, the mechanism underlying this association remains largely unknown, as well as how long adolescents with low self-esteem remain vulnerable to developing depressive symptoms. Insight into this mechanism may not only result in a better theoretical understanding but also provide directions for possible interventions. To address these gaps in knowledge, we investigated whether self-esteem in early adolescence predicted depressive symptoms in late adolescence and early adulthood. Moreover, we investigated a cascading mediational model, in which we focused on factors that are inherently related to self-esteem and the adolescent developmental period: approach and avoidance motivation and the social factors social contact, social problems, and social support. We used data from four waves of the TRAILS study (Nâ€‰=â€‰2228, 51% girls): early adolescence (mean age 11 years), middle adolescence (mean age 14 years), late adolescence (mean age 16 years), and early adulthood (mean age 22 years). Path-analyses showed that low self-esteem is an enduring vulnerability for developing depressive symptoms. Self-esteem in early adolescence predicted depressive symptoms in late adolescence as well as early adulthood. This association was independently mediated by avoidance motivation and social problems, but not by approach motivation. The effect sizes were relatively small, indicating that having low self-esteem is a vulnerability factor, but does not necessarily predispose adolescents to developing depressive symptoms on their way to adulthood. Our study contributes to the understanding of the mechanisms underlying the association between self-esteem and depressive symptoms, and has identified avoidance motivation and social problems as possible targets for intervention.
Dutch article, but published in English in 2017:
Background. Various sources indicate that mental disorders are the leading contributor to the burden of disease among youth. An important determinant of functioning is current mental health status. This study investigated whether psychiatric history has additional predictive power when predicting individual differences in functional outcomes. Method. We used data from the Dutch TRAILS study in which 1778 youths were followed from pre-adolescence into young adulthood (retention 80%). Of those, 1584 youths were successfully interviewed, at age 19, using the World Health Organization Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI 3.0) to assess current and past CIDI-DSM-IV mental disorders. Four outcome domains were assessed at the same time: economic (e.g. academic achievement, social benefits, financial difficulties), social (early motherhood, interpersonal conflicts, antisocial behavior), psychological (e.g. suicidality, subjective well-being, loneliness), and health behavior (e.g. smoking, problematic alcohol, cannabis use). Results. Out of the 19 outcomes, 14 were predicted by both current and past disorders, three only by past disorders (receiving social benefits, psychiatric hospitalization, adolescent motherhood), and two only by current disorder (absenteeism, obesity). Which type of disorders was most important depended on the outcome. Adjusted for current disorder, past internalizing disorders predicted in particular psychological outcomes while externalizing disorders predicted in particular health behavior outcomes. Economic and social outcomes were predicted by a history of co-morbidity of internalizing and externalizing disorder. The risk of problematic cannabis use and alcohol consumption dropped with a history of internalizing disorder. Conclusion. To understand current functioning, it is necessary to examine both current and past psychiatric status.
Objective. This study investigated whether low reward responsiveness marks vulnerability for developing depression in a large cohort of never-depressed 16-year-old adolescents who completed a reward task and were subsequently followed for 9 years, during which onset of depression was assessed. Method. Data were collected as part of the TRacking Adolescents’ Individual Lives Survey (TRAILS), an ongoing prospective cohort study. Reward responsiveness was assessed by the spatial orienting task at 16 years and depression was assessed at 19 years by the World Health Organization Composite International Diagnostic Interview and at 25 years by the Lifetime Depression Assessment Self-Report. Participants who completed the reward task at 16 years, had no previous onset of depression, and were assessed on depression onset at 19 and/or 25 years were included in the present study (N = 531; 81 became depressed during follow-up). Results. Difficulties in shifting attention from expected non-reward to expected reward and from expected punishment to expected non-punishment at 16 years predicted depression during follow-up. This was found only at an automatic level of information processing. Conclusion. The findings suggest that decreased reward responsiveness at 16 years marks vulnerability for depression. Prevention programs may aim at increasing at-risk adolescents’ responsiveness to cues for potential rewards, particularly in situations in which they are focused on negative experiences.