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 or whether they reflect differences between people. We investigated the associations between self-esteem and depressive symptoms at the within-person level, using random intercept cross-lagged panel models (RI-CLPMs). To get an impression of the magnitude of possible differences between the RI-CLPM and the CLPM, we compared the results of both models. We used data from three longitudinal adolescent samples (age range: 7–18 years; study 1: N = 1948; study 2: N = 1455; study 3: N = 316). Intervals between the measurements were 1–1.5 years. Single-paper meta-analyses showed 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- to 1.5-year time intervals, low self-esteem may negatively influence depressive symptoms over time within adolescents, but only weakly so.
- longitudinal data
- random intercept cross-lagged panel model
- within-person effects
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology