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01-04-2014 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 4/2014

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 4/2014

Trajectories of Depressive Symptoms from Adolescence to Young Adulthood: The Role of Self-esteem and Body-Related Predictors

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 4/2014
Jennine S. Rawana, Ashley S. Morgan


Although depression is a common issue among youth, it is unclear how important developmental factors, such as body mass index (BMI), self-esteem, and eating-and weight-related disturbances relate to the development of depression across adolescence and into young adulthood. Gender differences in these relationships and the specific nature of these relationships among adolescent boys and young men require further study. Using multilevel growth curve modeling, this study examined the effects of BMI, self-esteem, and eating- and weight-related disturbances (i.e., body dissatisfaction and weight management effort) and their interactive effects with gender on the developmental trajectory of depressive symptoms using the Canadian-based National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (N = 4,359 ages 12–21, 48.7 % female). On average, depressive symptoms decreased slightly at ages 12 through 14, began to increase from ages 14 through 17, and then began to decrease through age 21. Adolescent girls were at increased risk for depressive symptoms throughout adolescence and young adulthood compared to boys. This effect was compounded by low levels of self-esteem across adolescence and young adulthood. Engaging in weight management effort was associated with lower initial levels of depressive symptoms in early adolescence. The study’s findings contribute to basic etiologic research regarding the trajectory of depressive symptoms in adolescence and young adulthood suggesting that mid-adolescents may be most vulnerable to depression compared to other adolescent age groups. The findings also underscore the importance of fostering positive self-esteem among adolescent girls and young women to prevent depression and exploring the protective effect of specific weight management strategies in future research.

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