Skip to main content Accessibility help

Multiple pathways to self-reported depression and psychological adjustment among adolescents

  • Susan Harter (a1) and Nancy R. Whitesell (a1)


This study built upon earlier work documenting a theoretically derived model of four antecedents of depression, defined by a composite of global self-worth, affect (cheerful to depressed, and hope (hopefulness or hopelessness), among normative samples of adolescents. The four antecedents were: (a) perceived competence/adequacy in peer-salient domains (perceived appearance, peer likability, and athletic competence); (b) peer support; (c) perceived competence/adequacy in parent-salient domains (scholastic competence and behavioral conduct); and (d) parent support. However, not all components are observed in the profiles of individual adolescents. Thus, in this study, we examined the multiple pathways among those reporting depressive reactions (defined by the composite) as well as the different routes to positive adjustment, among those with high scores on the composite. Six profiles were identified among each group. For those reporting depressive reactions, perceived deficiencies in both peer- and parent-salient domains were particularly critical predictors. In contrast, for those reporting positive adjustment, peer and parent support were central components. The discussion emphasized the need to consider individual profile differences in planning interventions for adolescents at risk.


Corresponding author

Department of Psychology, University of Denver, 2155 S. Race Street, Denver, CO 80208


Hide All
Battle, J. (1987). Relationship between self-esteem and depression among children. Psychological Reports, 60, 11871190.
Baumeister, R. F. (1990). Suicide as escape from self. Psychological Review, 97, 90113.
Beck, A. T. (1975). Depression: Causes and Treatments. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Beck, A. T. (1987, 05). Hopelessness as a prediction of ultimate suicide. Paper presented at the joint meeting of the American Association of Suicidology and the International Association for Suicide Prevention, San Francisco.
Bibring, E. (1953). The mechanism of depression. In Greenacre, P. (Ed.), Affective Disorders: Psychoanalytic Contributions to their Study. New York: International Universities Press.
Blatt, S. J. (1974). Levels of object representation in ana-clitic and introjective depression. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 29, 107157.
Brown, B. (1990). Peer groups and peer cultures. In Feldman, S. S. & Elliot, G. R. (Eds.), At the threshold: The developing adolescent (pp. 171196). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Carlson, G. A., & Cantwell, D. P. (1982). Suicidal behavior and depression in children and adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 21, 361368.
Carlson, G. A., & Garber, J. (1986). Developmental issues in the classification of depression in children. In Rutter, M., Izard, C. E., & Read, P. B. (Eds.), Depression in young people: Developmental and clinical perspectives (pp. 399–134). New York: Guilford Press.
Cicchetti, D., & Schneider-Rosen, K. (1986). An organizational approach to childhood depression. In Rutter, M., Izard, C. E., & Read, P. (Eds.), Depression in Young People: Developmental and clinical perspectives (pp. 71134). New York: Guilford Press.
Cooley, C. H. (1902). Human nature and the social order. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
Cooper, C. R., Grotevant, H. D., & Condon, S. M. (1983). Individuality and connectedness: Both father adolescent identity formation and role taking skills. In Grotevant, H. D. & Cooper, C. R. (Eds.), Adolescent development in the family: New directions for child development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Damon, W. (1995). Greater expectations: Overcoming the culture of indulgence in America's homes and schools. New York: Free Press.
Emery, P. E. (1983). Adolescent depression and suicide. Adolescence, 18, 245258.
Freud, S. (1968). Mourning and melancholia. In Strachey, J. (Ed.), The standard edition of the complete works of Sigmund Freud (Vol. 14). London: Hogarth Press (Original work published 1917).
Garmezy, N. (1993). Children in poverty: Resilience despite risk. Psychiatry, 56, 127136.
Garmezy, N., & Rutter, M. (Eds.). (1985). Stress, Coping, and Development in Children. New York: R. R. Donnelley and Sons.
Greenberg, J., Pyszczynski, T., & Solomon, S. (1986). The causes and consequences of the need for self-esteem: A terror management theory. In Baumeister, R. F. (Ed.), Public self and private self. New York: Springer-Verlag.
Grotevant, H. D., & Cooper, C. R. (1986). Individuation in family relationships. Human Development, 29, 83100.
Hammen, C., & Goodman-Brown, T. (1990). Self-schemas and vulnerability to specific life stress in children at risk for depression. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 14, 215227.
Harter, S. (1982). The perceived competence scale for children. Child Development, 53, 8797.
Harter, S. (1985 a). The Self-Perception Profile for Children: Revision of the Perceived Competence Scale for Children. Manual, University of Denver.
Harter, S. (1985 b). The Social Support Scale for Children. Manual, University of Denver.
Harter, S. (1986). Processes underlying the construction, maintenance and enhancement of the self-concept in children. In Suls, J. & Greenwald, A., (Eds.), Psychological Perspectives on the Self (Vol. 3, pp. 136182). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Harter, S. (1990 a). Causes, correlates and the functional role of global self-worth: A life-span perspective. In Kolligain, J. & Sternberg, R. (Eds.), Perceptions of competence and incompetence across the life-span (pp. 6797). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Harter, S. (1990 b). Self and identity development. In Feldman, S. S. & Elliot, G. R. (Eds.), At the threshold: The developing adolescent (pp. 352387). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Harter, S. (In press). Developmental approaches to self-processes. New York: Guilford Press.
Harter, S., & Jackson, B. (1993). Young adolescents' perceptions of the link between low self-worth and depressed affect. Journal of Early Adolescence, 33, 383407.
Harter, S., & Marold, D. B. (1993). The directionality of the link between self-esteem and affect: Beyond causal modeling. In Cicchetti, D. & Toth, S. L. (Eds.), Rochester Symposium on Developmental Psychopathology: Disorders and dysfunctions of the self (Vol. 5, pp. 333370). Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.
Harter, S., & Marold, D. B. (1994). Psychosocial risk factors contributing to adolescent suicidal ideation. In Noam, G. G. & Borst, S. (Eds.), Children, youth, and suicide: Developmental perspectives (pp. 7192). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Harter, S., Marold, D. B., & Whitesell, N. R. (1992). A model of psychosocial risk factors leading to suicidal ideation in young adolescents. Development and Psychopathology, 4, 167188.
Harter, S., Nowakowski, M., & Marold, D. B. (1988). The Dimensions of Depression Profile for Children and Adolescents: Revision. Manual, University of Denver.
James, W. (1892). Psychology: The Briefer Course. New York: Henry Holt.
Kaslow, N. J., Rehm, L. P., & Siegel, A. W. (1984). Social cognitive and cognitive correlates of depression in children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 12, 605620.
Kazdin, A. E. (1990). Applications of self-report measures with children and adolescents. In LaGreca, A. M. (Ed.), Through the eyes of the child (pp. 189233). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Kendall, P. C., Cantwell, D. P., & Kazdin, A. E. (1989). Depression in children and adolescents: Assessment issues and recommendations. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 13, 109146.
Kendall, P. C., Stark, K. D., & Adam, T. (1990). Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 18, 255270.
Kovacs, M. (1983). The Children's Depression Inventory: A self-rated depression scale for school-aged youngsters. University of Pittsburgh, unpublished manuscript.
Kovacs, M., & Beck, A. T. (1977). An empirical clinical approach toward a definition of childhood depression. In Schulterbrandt, J. G. & Raskin, A. (Eds.), Depression in childhood: Diagnosis, treatment, and conceptual models (pp. 143169). New York: Raven Press.
Kovacs, M., & Beck, A. T. (1978). Maladaptive cognitive structures in depression. American Journal of Psychiatry, 135, 525533.
Mead, G. H. (1934). Mind, self, and society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (1990). Sex differences in depression. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (1984). Causal explanations as a risk factor for depression: Theory and evidence. Psychological Review, 91, 347374.
Pfeffer, C. R. (1988). Risk factors associated with youth suicide. Psychiatric Annals, 18, 652656.
Plutchick, R., & Conte, H. (1989). Self-report scales for the measurement of depression. Psychiatric Annals, 19(7), 367371.
Pozanski, E. O. (1982). The clinical phenomenology of childhood depression. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 52, 308313.
Renouf, A. G., & Harter, S. (1990). Low self-worth and anger as components of the depressive experience in young adolescents. Development and Psychopathology, 2, 293–210.
Robinson, N. (In press). Evaluating the nature of perceived support and its relation to perceived self-worth in adolescents. Journal of Research on Adolescence.
Rosenberg, M. (1986). Self-concept from middle childhood through adolescence. In Suls, J. & Green-wald, A. G. (Eds.), Psychological perspectives on the self (Vol. 3, pp. 107135). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Rutter, M. (1985). Resilience in the face of adversity: Protective factors and resistance to psychiatric disorder. British Journal of Psychiatry, 147, 598611.
Rutter, M. (1987). Psychosocial resilience and protective mechanisms. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 57, 316331.
Rutter, M. (1989 a). Pathways from childhood to adult life. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 30, 2351.
Rutter, M. (1989 b). Isle of Wight revisited: Twenty-five years of child psychiatric epidemiology. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 28, 633653.
Rutter, M., Izard, C., & Read, P. (Eds.). (1985). Depression in childhood: Developmental and clinical perspectives. New York: Guilford Press.
Savin-Williams, R. C., & Berndt, T. (1990). Friendship during adolescence. In Feldman, S. S. & Elliot, G. R. (Eds.), At the threshold: The developing adolescent (pp. 277307). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Seligman, M. E. P. (1975). Helplessness: On Depression, development, and death. San Francisco: Freeman.
Shaffer, D. (1985). Depression, mania, and suicidal acts. In Rutter, M. & Hersov, L. (Eds.), Child and adolescent psychiatry: Modern approaches. London: Black-well.
Sroufe, L. A. (1983). Infant-caregiver attachment and patterns of adaptation in the preschool: The roots of competence and maladaptation. In Perlmutter, M. (Ed.), Minnesota Symposium in Child Psychology (Vol. 16, pp. 4183). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Sroufe, L. A., & Rutter, M. (1985). The domain of developmental psychopathology. Child Development, 55, 1729.
Steinberg, L. (1990). Autonomy, conflict, and harmony in the family. In Feldman, S. S. & Elliot, G. R. (Eds.), At the threshold: The developing adolescent (pp. 255276). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Weinberg, W. A., Rutman, J., Sullivan, L., Penick, E. C., & Dietz, S. G. (1973). Journal of Pediatrics, 83, 10651072.


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed