'I am worthless and kind': the specificity of positive and negative self-evaluation in adolescent depression

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Objectives: Adolescence represents a critical phase when the concept of self is developed and consolidated. Depressed adolescents globally endorse more negative and fewer positive self-descriptive words compared with non-depressed adolescents. Yet the methods used have not allowed for more detailed exploration of the specific content of these self-endorsements.
Methods: Adolescents, aged 12-18 years, were recruited from the community (n = 204) and from a child and adolescent mental health service in the UK (n = 87).
Participants completed measures of depression and a self-description questionnaire which included 12 positive and 12 negative self-descriptive adjectives.
Results: As expected, we replicated previous findings that depressive symptoms are associated with global positive and negative self-endorsements. The difference between mean scores was examined for each adjective. Depressed adolescents endorsed all negative adjectives more highly relative to community adolescents; ratings of ?worthless? and ?useless? had the biggest difference between community and depressed adolescents. Surprisingly, a group of positive prosocial self-descriptors were endorsed equally by depressed and community adolescents and were not associated with severity of depressive symptoms.
Conclusions: Although depressed adolescents endorsed more negative descriptions of themselves than community adolescents, positive self-endorsements related to their relationships with other people were not impaired.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)260-273
JournalBritish Journal of Clinical Psychology
Issue number3
Early online date1 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019

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