Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice

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Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice - Early View Articles, Pages ${blockparams.parentJournalIssue.pageRange}

Longitudinal association between low self‐esteem and depression in early adolescents: The role of rejection sensitivity and loneliness

Objectives

Although the relation between low self‐esteem and depression has been well established, little is known about the possible psychological mechanisms that account for the relation between them. Based on Beck's cognitive theory of depression, the main aim of this study was to explore the notion that rejection sensitivity and loneliness serve as mediators of the relation between low self‐esteem and depression among early adolescents.

Design

Using a longitudinal design, we evaluated the hypothesized model with a sample of 866 Chinese early adolescents (51% females) between 11 and 15 years old who completed questionnaires on three occasions at 1‐year intervals.

Results

Structural equation modelling showed that: (1) low self‐esteem at Time 1 positively predicted depression at Time 3; (2) rejection sensitivity at Time 2 partially mediated the relation between low self‐esteem at Time 1 and depression at Time 3; (3) low self‐esteem at Time 1 demonstrated partial indirect effects on depression at Time 3 successively via rejection sensitivity and loneliness at Time 2; and (4) rejection sensitivity predicted an increase in loneliness but not vice versa, and depression accounted for later loneliness, but not for rejection sensitivity.

Conclusions

The associations between low self‐esteem and depression among early adolescents may be explained by rejection sensitivity and loneliness. These results suggest implications for effective interventions for depression in early adolescents.

Practitioner points

  • Low self‐esteem is a risk factor for depression in early adolescents, and rejection sensitivity and loneliness help explain the vulnerability model.
  • Implementing empirically based intervention plans to overcome low self‐esteem may be helpful in efforts to reduce depression in early adolescents.
  • Effective interventions should likely include efforts to decrease rejection sensitivity and loneliness and their effects, such as training to interpret verbal and behavioural cues in social interactions more accurately and to develop more effective social skills to enhance social confidence.

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